Koran By Heart
Filmmaker Greg Barker offers a look into an unusual contest in which talented children pit their skills against others from around the world in this documentary. Every year, dozens of kids travel to Cairo to take place in an international Koran recitation contest; the children (some as young as seven) are judged on their ability to recite the Muslim holy book from memory, and they are graded on both accuracy and the musicality of their intonation. In Koran By Heart, Barker and his crew capture the competition and the interaction between the entrants, as well as the parents who serve as both guardians and trainers. Barker puts his greatest focus on three children: Rifdha, one of the few girls in the competition, who hails from the Maldives and seems considerably more open minded and questioning than her stern father; Nabiollah, a boy from Tajikistan whose striking performance is especially remarkable since he doesn't speak Arabic; and Djamil, a ten-year-old from Senegal who is on his own in Cairo while his friends and family eagerly await the news about the contest at home. Koran By Heart received its world premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.