Doc Review: “Koran by Heart”

Tonight Greg Barker’s “Koran by Heart” debuts on HBO. It’s a competition doc — this year there’s a bunch — but it’s so much more, and I highly recommend it. Here’s an excerpt from my review of the film at Spout:

The fact that it’s not necessarily a display of comprehension does correlate Koran recitation to spelling bees, making “Koran by Heart” more akin to “Spellbound” than most competitive docs likened to Jeffrey Blitz’s 2002 exemplar. But the contest here is also a metaphor for contention among Muslims throughout the world regarding proper observance of the text and Islam in general. Many of the competitors, including the three that Barker focuses on, do not speak Arabic. So while they may have an understanding of the teachings of Islam, they don’t know what they’re literally chanting when they recite the text in the Arabic language. Equate this with followers of any religion who either don’t fully know or fully obey the doctrine of their faith. Or, to followers who believe and live one way that is perceived as ignorant or incorrect by other followers. The irony of the analogy, however, is that there is only one perfectly accepted way to recite the Koran.

The film premieres as part of HBO’s summer doc series at 9pm. It’ll also be on demand and on HBO GO through 9/11. See it.

News: Distribution for “Jig” and “Ride, Rise, Roar”

Competition-based documentaries are pretty common right now, with recent theatrical releases including “Make Believe” (teen magic championship) and “Louder Than a Bomb” (teen poetry slam championship). The next one for your radar is Sue Bourne’s “Jig,” a doc about the Irish Dancing World Championships that will hit screens in NYC, Boston, Toronto and Chicago on June 17th. Now officially announced as the doc’s distributor is Screen Media Films, a good fit since they also just handled the release of “White Irish Drinkers.” They must have a thing for the Emerald Isle. Anyway, I’m seeing “Jig” soon and should have a review up ahead of its opening. So stay tuned.

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