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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives on the West End with his lovely wife Emily, where they watch all the movies ever made. When not digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: November 3, 2014

“Muslim Journeys” film series is a way to bridge a very real gap – Thursdays in November at Portland Library

Thursday’s showing of Greg Barker’s 2011 documentary “Koran By Heart” kicks off yet another ambitious, informative film series at the library.

Written by: Dennis Perkins
HBO documentary “Koran by Heart” follows three children, including this girl, Rifdha. Courtesy photo

HBO documentary “Koran by Heart” follows three children, including this girl, Rifdha. Courtesy photo

Despite being full of books – the mortal enemies of movies – the Portland Public Library continues to be a favorite of the “Indie Film” desk and Portland’s indie film community. Consistently programming interesting, entertaining documentaries and the odd eccentric feature film, (apparently I missed a recent “King Kong” festival, banana snacks included) the library continues to enrich the lives of local film fans by shading in the Portland film landscape.

Thursday’s showing of Greg Barker’s 2011 documentary “Koran By Heart” kicks off yet another ambitious, informative film series at the library. A portrait of three children taking part in a global competition in Koran recital, the acclaimed film presents a touching and thought-provoking picture of how young, modern-day Muslims incorporate their faith and their daily lives, and is the first film in the library’s “Muslim Journeys” film series. Over the next three Thursdays, the library is presenting three different films (including “Islamic Art” on the 13th, and “Prince Among Slaves” on the 20th), with each film followed by a discussion led by Reza Jalali, USM coordinator of multicultural affairs. The series springs from a grant won by the Maine Humanities Council, and, according to PPL programming manager Rachael Weyand, continues the library’s greater mission in the community.

“We offer all sorts of programming, especially with films,” explains Weyand. “Not only for people’s enjoyment, but to shed light on things people might not understand. Films are a great way to do that.”

The “Muslim Journeys” film series is being presented as part of the library’s refreshingly named “Choose Civility” initiative – the PPL actually has “civility coordinators” – whose goal is to promote respectful, thoughtful discussion and sharing of ideas. (Honestly, even writing those words reminds me of just how valuable libraries are to American society.)

Explains Weyand, “The Civility Initiative is a national movement… intended to create an environment for people to come together and talk about important issues in a civil way. It’s one of the library’s efforts to play a central role in the culture of Portland, to be a safe and neutral place for every member of the community.”

There’s no secret that religious differences – and specifically prejudice against Muslims – in the current political climate cause a lot of friction in America today. According to Weyand, the “Muslim Journeys” series is a way to bridge a very real gap that exists in Portland. “Portland embraces the Muslim community, but there are plenty of ways we could be more understanding and accepting. A lot of Portlanders don’t know about it, and this series fit naturally in our mission to promote awareness and acceptance of other cultures.”

Each film in the “Muslim Journeys” series will show in the Library’s Rines Auditorium and will begin at 6:30pm. All screenings are free to the public. For more information, go to portlandlibrary.com.

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

SPACE GALLERY, Portland | www.space538.org
Thursday: “Bjork: Biophilia Live.” Everyone’s favorite Icelandic musical weirdo Bjork teamed with a full band armed with experimental instruments and dozens of designers to create this multimedia concert experience intended as a typically bonkers multimedia love letter to “nature in all her manifestations.” The result, filmed in front of a live, presumably awestruck audience last year is as mesmerizing and uncompromising as you’d expect. Bjork – this generation’s Yoko Ono, only with music you’d actually listen to!

FRONTIER, Bruswick | www.explorefrontier.com
Tuesday: “Listen Up Philip.” Sounding like a darker, meaner Wes Anderson movie, this lacerating dark comedy of jerkiness sees Jason Schwartzman’s egotistical novelist alienating everyone in his life (including girlfriend Elisabeth Moss) as he waits for the publication of his second novel at the country home of mentor Jonathan Pryce.

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