INDEPENDENT LENS: Two Gods
Stream or tune in Monday, June 21, 2021 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV
An intimate documentary about faith, renewal, and healing, “Two Gods” follows a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in Newark, New Jersey, as he takes two young men under his wing to teach them how to live better lives.
Directed by Zeshawn Ali, "Two Gods" will make its broadcast premiere on INDEPENDENT LENS on June 21, 2021.
In the city of East Orange, New Jersey, just outside of Newark, a casket shop stands on the corner. Inside, laboring amid the sawdust and the long pine boxes, casket makers work in the Islamic burial tradition.
Hanif, a Black Muslim casket maker who finds spiritual grounding in his work, brings two boys from the local community under his tutelage; 12-year-old Furquan and 17-year-old Naz.
Hanif teaches Furquan and Naz the practices of Islamic burial rituals as they assist him with his work. The film follows his efforts to show the young boys that they can seek out more from their lives.
Having formerly served time in prison, Hanif continues to grapple with past mistakes and present challenges, finding purpose in his faith and religious community while guiding his young charges on their own paths toward healing and embracing life.
Shot in black-and-white, "Two Gods" explores the juxtaposition of grief and the rituals of death with the vibrancy and potential of coming-of-age. The film also turns an empathetic lens on Muslim American stories, ultimately crafting a moving portrait of both the intimate moments and the complexities of the everyday Muslim American experience.
“I was first drawn to Hanif in the way so many around him are – he has a natural sense of connection to the people around him. As a healer in both his professional and personal life, he really demonstrated for me the power of faith and community to help us overcome setbacks in our lives and help others find peace and redemption as well,” said Ali. “I’m honored that 'Two Gods' will make its broadcast premiere on PBS and hope that audiences across the country can find inspiration and healing in Hanif’s story and the stories of his community.”
The film premiered at Hot Docs 2020 and also played at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the 2020 New Orleans Film Festival, where it won the Documentary Feature Jury Award.
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Director: Zeshawn Ali. Producer: Aman Ali. Editor: Colin Nusbaum. Executive Producers: Sally Jo Fifer and Lois Vossen. Executive Producer, Black Public Media: Leslie Fields-Cruz. Cinematographer: Zeshawn Ali. Additional Cinematography: Emir Fils-Aime.
The film is a co-production with Black Public Media, received production funding through ITVS Open Call and is also part of the ITVS and PBS “Stories for Justice'' initiative. This recently announced public media partnership highlights films that boost the work of people on the front lines of criminal justice reform, and heightens their impact through online and real-world engagement.