After nearly six years, Parvez Sharma will finally show his documentary A Jihad for Love at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. But the work is far from over for the filmmaker, whose feature film about the lives of gay Muslims who continue to live strongly by their faith is sure to be provocative.
Instead, as audiences get their first glimpse at the 70-minute documentary filmed in 12 countries and nine languages, Sharma and his producer, Sandi Dubowski, who directed 2001's Trembling Before G-d, will be on the hunt for donations to help pay off the film's post-production costs and fund their planned Muslim Dialogue Project.
"Over the next few years, we need to make sure that even outside of distribution it will be able to get discussions going for years to come, to create impact and change the lives of people," said Sharma, 34, who lives in New York on a visa as an "alien with extraordinary abilities."
Sharma, who is himself a gay Muslim, sees the project as a first for the world of Muslim homosexuals.
"For the first time Islam's most unlikely storytellers are stepping out and stepping proud and sharing their stories with the camera," he said, adding that the fact the film is done from a fully Muslim perspective also makes it stand out.
But neither Sharma nor Dubowski want the film to just be a one-time eye-opener for audiences, but rather the beginning of a lengthier discussion.
With the Muslim Dialogue Project he and Dubowski plan to do just that by using Dubowski's proven method from Trembling: turning cinemas or film festivals into town halls, garnering enough chatter to spread interest in the film as it moves into other countries. After three of the five TIFF screenings, four of the film's actors will discuss their thoughts in a Q&A session at the theatres.