The Tribeca Film Festival has announced that a documentary short produced by Chelsea Clinton will hold its world premiere during the festival at the end of April.
Directed by Linda G. Mills, with Clinton as its Executive Producer, the film "Of Many" documents the extraordinary friendship between two religious leaders -- one Muslim, one Jewish -- and the rewards and costs of their uncommon alliance.
The film opens with footage of bombings from the Gaza conflict in 2012, followed by images of college students attending Palestinian and Israeli rallies and counter-rallies that serve as a stark reminder of the the volatile and painful tensions between Muslim and Jewish communities on many American university campuses.
With 9/11 and Arab-Israeli conflict as a backdrop, "Of Many" documents the lives of Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the Muslim and Jewish Chaplains at New York University, and the development of their interfaith commitment to each another and to the communities they represent.
Latif and Sarna met in 2006 when a student group at NYU planned to display the "Danish cartoons." In response, Latif and the Muslim Student Association held a planning meeting for a teach-in and Sarna showed up. Latif invited Sarna to attend the teach-in, which presented a dilemma for Sarna. "That would not be simple," explained the Rabbi. "What would it mean for me, the rabbi of the Jewish Center at NYU, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims in what might be perceived as a defense of a violent response to a cartoon." In the end, he went to the teach-in. "I thought it was important that Jewish students attend, which they did."
But it didn't end there.
After the event, the Muslim students went out into the street for sunset prayer. A few feet to the side of the Muslim community, Sarna began to pray in his own way as a gesture of solidarity. "I thought, wouldn't it be fitting if I was praying near them... or with them?" Afterwards, several Muslim students came over and told him, "We never thought a rabbi could understand us in this way."
Out of the remarkable collaboration between Latif and Sarna, the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU was formed. Mills, who directed "Of Many," is Vice Chancellor for Global Programs at NYU and Co-Chair, along with Chelsea Clinton, of the Of Many Institute advisory board. (The author of this piece is also on the advisory board) In a press release, Mills explained how the the friendship between the imam and the rabbi led to the new institute and, ultimately, the making of the film:
Inspired by the tremendous student interest in this multifaith effort, Khalid and Yehuda worked closely with Chelsea and me to establish the Of Many Institute at NYU. Key to this development was the observation that the unorthodox work and friendship of a rabbi and an imam could be the basis for a new model of multi-faith collaborative work and adventure -– at NYU and beyond.
For more information about the film, including educational opportunities around the film, go to the website Of Many Film.