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.
These "...are very real issues in Pakistan that need to be urgently addressed. Maulana Abdul Aziz and his supporters in the Lal Masjid continue to operate unimpeded despite their unrepentant support for militancy and terror. "
"Pakistan is witnessing worrying new policies and practices that can have serious consequences on freedom of expression and safety of media in the country" - Pakistan Press Freedom Report
Our director Mohammed Ali Naqvi told Dawn that the ban “...is deeply distressing for me, because the film has been screened in 20 countries, and I wanted to screen it in my home country."
"The tone of the film is a world away from hate-fueled infotainment, or being ‘anti-state’, as the government puts it. If by negative image, they mean the documentary shows the grave reality of the deadly influence of radical minds on the young, then it is time to see this reality." - The Nation (Pakistan)
Our director Mo Naqvi told Pakistan Views, “Aside from following Maulana Abdul Aziz and his Lal Masjid network for five years, the film features the stories of Pakistanis that have never been shared before....Our team has taken immense risks to feature these voices to effect change in our country. “
Director Anum Abbas of Islamabad's Face Film Festival, said of Among the Believers: "It is an excellent documentary that shows all sides of the picture but unfortunately, it has been banned"
"While the film has been lauded for its eye-opening narrative that gives an insight on the religious and ideological battles that prevail in Pakistan world over, local government has banned the film " -
"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."
"The whole film is a complete eye-opener to the sheer scale and impact that radical ideologies impact the lives of young children and how they shape Pakistan today."
“A superb documentary that offers an unfettered look at life inside and surrounding the extremist Red Mosque madrassa system… at once deeply scary when it comes to what it may presage about the future, and thoroughly enlightening.” - AM New York
“Directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, from India and Pakistan, came together to create what might just be the biggest and the most important films of the year.”- Rida Sadiq
“[...] an eye-opening behind the scenes portrait of the Red Mosque.”
- Marlow Stern
“Among the Believers might also qualify as Tribeca’s scariest film this year. Boasting incredible access, directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi are invited into Red Mosque.”
“Though the directors don’t shy away from describing the pain wrought by the Red Mosque… they also provide a look at Pakistanis fighting to pull their country back from the disturbing path it’s gone down.”
“Filmmakers Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi are granted extraordinary access to the Red Mosque madrassa network, which teaches its young pupils to learn the Quran and then die for it. The film doesn’t scrimp on the scary details, though some hope is offered in the counterpoint of one poor educator trying to build and run a real school, and the stories of those who are speaking out against the system. A remarkable peek.”
One of the "Best of 2015 Tribeca Film Festival"
“This expose of schools teaching religious extremism in Pakistan is both infuriating and remarkable for the degree of access obtained by the trenchant filmmakers.” – Casey Cipriani, Indiewire
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