AMONG THE BELIEVERS
Democracy has failed. Dictators have failed. Now there is a vacuum.
Someone has to fill it.
Charismatic cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS supporter and Taliban ally, is waging jihad against the Pakistani state. His dream is to impose a strict version of Shariah law throughout the country, as a model for the world. A flashpoint in Aziz's holy war took place in 2007, when the government leveled his flagship mosque to the ground, killing his mother, brother, only son and 150 students. With unprecedented access, Among the Believers follows Aziz on his very personal quest to create an Islamic utopia, during the bloodiest period in Pakistan's modern history.
The film also follows the lives of two teenage students who have attended madrassahs (Islamic seminaries) run by Aziz's Red Mosque network. Throughout the film, their paths diverge: Talha, 12, detaches from his moderate Muslim family and decides to become a jihadi preacher. Zarina, also 12, escapes her madrassah and joins a regular school. Over the next few years, Zarina's education is threatened by frequent Taliban attacks on schools like her own.
Aziz’s foil is nuclear physicist and leading educational activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. He passionately opposes Aziz through his public appearances, lectures, and the media. Opposition against Aziz comes to a head in December, 2014, when Aziz insults a grieving nation by trying to justify the brutal massacre of 132 school children in Peshawar by the Taliban. The attack ignites a movement to end extremism in Pakistan’s mosques and madrassahs. Led by Hoodbhoy and others, Pakistan's moderate majority focuses on Aziz and calls for his arrest.
Intimate and shocking, Among the Believers offers rare insights into the ideological battles shaping Pakistan and the Muslim world.
“For Americans wanting to understand the resolve and perverted religion of terrorism, “Among the Believers” shines a chilling light on a country that veers between ally and enemy.” ~ Jeffrey Fleishman
“The documentary “Among the Believers,” from the directing team of Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, takes us inside Pakistan’s notorious network of Red Mosque madrasas, and its soft-voiced, ideologically immovable leader, Abdul Aziz.”
~ Robert Abele
“Making this film involved sacrifices by all those who participated. They received death threats, their friends were murdered, and the crew were left fearing for their lives and for their families’ safety. What they produced is a stirring message that will ask viewers to progress beyond fear, hatred, and knee-jerk assumptions about Pakistan and Islam.” ~ Zainab Salbi
Review: In ‘Among the Believers,’ a Cleric Holds Sway
“The directors let their subjects speak without overtly passing judgment. And while it is maddening to see the aversion to open-minded education by Mr. Aziz (“‘Progressive thought’ is dying,” he declares, pleased), we also see the stark poverty that leaves others with few choices but to follow him.”
“Directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi discuss their film, “Among the Believers,” which follows cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS and Taliban supporter, who is waging jihad against the Pakistani government, looking to impose Shariah law. The film also follows the paths of two of his teenage students.”
“The new film "Among the Believers" profiles Pakistani cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, a Taliban and ISIS supporter whose organization is using schools to spread his form of radical Islam.”
“Directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi make an anti-fundamentalist practice of asking, listening and witnessing; the result is urgent and unsettling.” OR “Some of the stories are difficult to hear, but they must be listened to.” ~ Diana Clarke
“By establishing trust with their subjects and persisting in telling this story over several years, Hemal and Mo were able to provide in-depth perspective on what may be causing the rise of radical Islamism, something Americans can’t easily find on nightly newscasts. Despite multiple rejections from funders, and death threats from Taliban supporters, they persevered and created a documentary that all Americans, and hopefully one day Pakistanis – it’s currently banned in Pakistan- need to see.”
“AMONG THE BELIEVERS “They train kids to be suicide bombers here!” a distraught man shouts outside a school during a demonstration in Pakistan. This documentary, from Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, takes us inside the school to prove that claim. The school system is run by Maulana Abdul Aziz, a cleric and ISIS supporter whose goal is to impose Shariah law around the globe.” ~ Anita Gates
“This film about a 'jihadi school' is so explosive the Pakistani Government tried to ban it. If you care about the future of Islam, you have to watch this video. [With thanks to Hemal Trivedi and Mo Naqvi, the filmmakers of Among the Believers, who obtained this rare and exclusive footage].”
“Trivedi and Naqvi put together this multi-tentacled story using a daunting variety of footage, news reports and archival film mixed with interviews”...“a far more disturbing portrait of obsession, with very real and cataclysmic political consequences.”
Documentarians Take On Religious Activism at Tribeca Film Festival “Despite the hot-button nature of their material, the filmmakers strive to keep their tone evenhanded…” "The filmmaker captures a man of contradictions.” ~ Steve Dollar.
Directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi speak with BBC World News about their latest multi-award-winning film "Among The Believers". Directed by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, Produced by Jonathan Goodman Levitt and Hemal Trivedi, Written by Jonathan Goodman Levitt.
"Having been filmed over the course of five precarious years, Among The Believers follows the infamous Pakistani cleric and ISIS supporter, Abdul Aziz Ghazi, in light of a country on the precipice of acute religiosity and rising sectarian violence."
“[...] an eye-opening behind the scenes portrait of the Red Mosque.”
- Marlow Stern
A “disturbing portrait of obsession, with very real and cataclysmic political consequences.” “a glimpse into a world rarely seen so up close and personal.”-
“Pakistan's infamous Red Mosque, seen from the inside… Taking Western audiences into communities we can hardly be expected to understand solely through conventional news coverage, Among the Believers goes to school where young Pakistanis' elementary education focuses less on basic life skills than on instilling a militaristic, extreme interpretation of the Koran.”
— The Hollywood Reporter
"Despite the hot-button nature of their material, the filmmakers strive to keep their tone evenhanded…”
"The filmmaker captures a man of contradictions.” - The Wall Street Journal
"Defined by its jaw-dropping access, Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s sobering new documentary drops viewers into the heart of an organization known as the Red Mosque, a network of madrassas that aims to spread its jihadist ideology by targeting the most vulnerable Pakistanis: lower-class children." - Time Out New York
“With unprecedented access to major players, this documentary clearly follows the bloody power struggle between Muslim extremists and secular leaders for control of Pakistani children’s education.”
“The bloody power struggle between Muslim extremists and secular leaders for control of Pakistani children’s education receives clear, dramatically up-close expression in “Among the Believers.” “chills to the bone.” - Variety
Tom Brook discusses the festival with BBC Culture film critic Owen Gleiberman and Aisha Harris, culture writer for Slate.
Directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi speak with the BBC about the political divide in Pakistan.
Director Mohammed Ali Naqvi speaks with the BBC Asian Network about radicalization in Pakistan.
Director Hemal Trivedi speaks with IndieWire about the premiere of "Among the Believers" at Tribeca Film Festival
Chicken & Egg Pictures
Center for Asian American Media
The Ford Foundation
Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
Independent Film Week
Influence Film Foundation
The Joan and Lewis Platt Foundation
New York State Council on the Arts
Sheffield Doc Fest: Meet Market
Sundance Documentary Fund
Tribeca All Access
Tribeca Film Institute