Earlier this year, I was invited by the mayor of Oxford, Kate Rousmaniere, to join her for a multi-faith supper at the mosque in Cincinnati. The keynote speaker at this gathering was Alex Kronemer, executive director and producer at Unity Productions Foundation (UDF). Unity Productions Foundation’s mission is to highlight the positive aspects of the Muslim faith, counter bigotry and create peace through media. An estimated 150 million people worldwide have seen UPF’s films which have won dozens of national and international awards. UPF also works in Hollywood through the MOST (Muslims on Screen and Television) Resource Center, providing facts and research to script writers and producers on popular shows seen worldwide.
Alex had brought some free DVDs made by UPF, and Mayor Kate and I took several: Prince among Slaves, Enemy of the Reich, and The Sultan and the Saint. I suggested to Kate that perhaps we could have an Oxford Interfaith Film Festival. So during the summer of 2019, we began planning for this dream to become a reality.
Kate’s idea was to provide “Dinner and a Movie” on Saturday evening for the Oxford community and Miami students. We would share a simple bread and soup dinner, and then make new friends through discussion after the movie over cookies and coffee. Six inter-faith leaders (Pastor Logan Dysart from Faith Lutheran, Marc Van Bulck from Oxford Presbyterian Church, Zafer Ozdemir who leads the Muslim student group at Miami, Mayor Kate, Marcy Miller from Hillel Jewish Student Center and myself) worked together to finalize the program.
We hosted two movies at Holy Trinity. Twenty-seven community members and students attended the first evening to watch the Buddhist movie The Cup. Next, 31 people attended a Muslim documentary, Mohammed, Legacy of a Prophet, including four university students. It was a joy that a Miami psychology professor sent four of his students to our series!
On September 22, 19 of us watched Chaim Potak’s movie The Chosen, after sharing chicken soup and challah bread. I was thankful that nine people from Holy Trinity attended the movie, including one student. Participation from Holy Trinity has been encouraging, and wonderful to share a meal and listen to one another’s reflections with respect and interest. The final movie, Entertaining Angels, was shown at Oxford Presbyterian Seminary. The movie portrays the conversion and life of the Christian social activist, Dorothy Day, a most moving and inspiring true story.
Our aim for this multi-faith movie series has been to foster inter-faith understanding and to broaden our hearts and minds to embrace the humanity of all people. I was thankful for all who helped set up and clean up, for all who provided food, space and welcome, and for all who attended and participated in our first ever Oxford Multi-faith Movie Festival.
The Rev. Sara Palmer serves as rector at Holy Trinity, Oxford.