Truth really is stranger than fiction. When we learned British Muslim boxer Amir Khan would be defending his world boxing title against American Jewish boxer Dmitriy Salita, we wanted to mark the unprecedented fight somehow. Would this moment of two sporting greats facing off across a boxing ring enable a redefinition of what the media often poses as an irreconcilable cultural conflict? And what would the Jewish and Muslim fans make of the match?
We pitched our idea to a local government cultural film commission: we wanted to take six die-hard boxing fans to see the match. But this wouldn’t be any ordinary road movie; we would take two groups of young men who had never before met – oh, and one group would be Muslim and one Jewish. It could be something quite special. We were given the go ahead by the Tower Hamlets Cultural Cohesion team and we were off…
What a task we’d set ourselves! First we had to find contributors who worked well on screen and most importantly were willing to take part. Starting with a comprehensive phoning campaign but only finding dead-ends, we turned to supportive friends and contacts for help, and eventually, with the help of some previous clients made through a previous project’s work, we eventually tracked down two groups of young men who were perfect for the film.
Here our project management skills came into play as we also arranged not only filming locations, catering and transport up to the venue, but also found suitable rooms for our contributors to stay overnight.
With two cameras, our in-house Panasonic and (a) hired-in Sony HD camera we kicked off the shoot with preparatory interviews to set up the characters, and arranged a cordoned-off section in a bowling alley where both groups could meet. Throughout the shoot we were constantly surprised by the tolerance, understanding and exceptional humour of the contributors; this is something we’re particularly proud to show off in the final edit.
An incredible film which sheds a very different light on cultural sterotypes and schisms. Possibly summed up best by the words of Howard Jacobson, Man Booker Prize winner 2011:
“Most hopeful thing I’ve seen in years. Young Jews and Muslims laughing and rapping together. Half the time you don’t know which is which. Wonderful.”
The film has been officically selected for the Open City London Film Festival, the East London Film Festival and the Jewish Film Festival. It also forms part of Tower Hamlet’s CoeXisT DVD and package, a concept designed to address interfaith relations amongst young people.