Greg Barker's documentary covers the 2010 International Holy Koran Competition, a sort of Islamic spelling bee held in Cairo annually, in which young Muslims from around the world gather to see not only who has best memorized the Koran, but who can recite it with the most spirit and beauty. Barker focuses on three ten-year-old competitors with compelling stories: a boy from Takijistan educated at a fundamentalist madrassa, a girl from the more relaxed culture of the Maldives, and a boy from Senegal travelling without his parents.

The competition is gruelling, featuring all-night sessions (it takes place during Ramadan) as 110 competitors are whittled down to 12 finalists, and Barker's engrossing film captures its scope, including fascinating characters such as the competition's director, Dr. Salem Abdel-Galil, deputy minister of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Egypt and a prominent moderate Islamic figure in Cairo. As much a look at the variety and diversity of modern Islam as the story of brilliant young children matched in a battle of wits and memory, Koran By Heart offers cliché-busting insight with every image.

0 min 57 sec


Posted On
October 24, 2011
Greg Barker

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HBO Films

October 1, 2011
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