Among The Believers makes its West Coast premiere at the Hollywood Film Festival.
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.