“Why do you have to be so different?” was a question asked to a Muslim girl right after she was attacked for wearing a headscarf. This question may be nonsensical and pointless, but it changed everything for her. America has a big problem accepting different things from what they’re used to, for some, it’s shocking to have to deal with people who are and have completely different ideals from theirs. These entrenched prejudices would already reach several minorities over the past few decades, but in recent years it has been increasingly frequent with Muslims and immigrants. Since 9/11, the perception around Islam has changed radically. What was once seen as just a religion with different views of Christianity has become something extreme and radical to the perception of a huge part of the nation. “An Act of Worship” deals with all this social change that Muslims and immigrants have had to deal with over the years.
Director Nausheen Dadabhoy achieved something extremely important with this documentary. Dadabhoy was able to capture all the social pressure that Muslims have to face on a daily basis. The film follows several stories of Muslims who report how their lives are affected by the major events taking place in the United States. The director shows the despair and oppression caused by fear after 9/11, the hope of a concrete change after the election of Barack Obama, and the fear, the exclusion and the bleak reality after the election of Donald Trump. The suffering that Muslims and immigrants had to face during Trump’s term often seems to have been omitted from history. Whether with documentary images, animated recreations or cinematographic reenactments, “An Act of Worship”is able to turn all these experiences into something that attracts us into the stories being told. The moments of earnestness never come without a sense of hope behind it.
Whether for its completely resonant social message or for its innovative cinematic vision, “An Act of Worship” will go down as one of the best documentary features of the year. The story told by Dadabhoy is as relevant as it is inspiring, and it serves as an example to be followed for anyone who wishes to achieve such artistic greatness while still being truly enthralling.