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INDEPENDENT LENS: Two Gods

Stream or tune in Monday, June 21, 2021 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Hanif Muhammad shows Furquan Maynard how to build a casket for the first time.

Credit: Courtesy of Zeshawn Ali

Above: Hanif Muhammad shows Furquan Maynard how to build a casket for the first time.

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.

Trailer | Two Gods

An intimate documentary about faith, renewal, and healing, "Two Gods" follows a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in New Jersey, as he takes two young men under his wing to teach them how to live better lives.

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.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Zeshawn Ali

Nazir Powell shares how exhausted he feels with the toll the criminal justice system has taken on his teenage life.

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.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Zeshawn Ali

Hanif Muhammad stands for prayer in Ramadan and turns to God for help amidst all the hardships he’s been facing.

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.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Zeshawn Ali

Funeral worker Hanif Muhammad prepares a body he’s received for washing to start a janazah, the Islamic ritual of preparing a body for burial.

Filmmaker Quote:

“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.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Emir Fils-Aime

Funeral worker Hanif Muhammad gets the water ready he’s going to use to conduct a janazahs, the Islamic ritual of washing a body before burial.

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.

Watch On Your Schedule:

This episode will be available simultaneously with the broadcast on the INDEPENDENT LENS website, PBS.org and the PBS Video App.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Conversation:

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. #IndieLensPBS

Credits:

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.

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