(Cape Town) - Ahmet Sait Akçay, World Bulletin
Khalid Shamis trained as a Writer, Director and Editor in the Film and TV industry in London. Khalid has settled in South Africa since 2005. He lectured in the Film school at the WITS School of Arts, Johannesburg. He is currently running a small production campany and Tubafilm in Cape Town.
“Imam and I", the documentary of Imam Abdullah Haroon, has been screened in Cape Town on many occasions through this year. Your another short film of Imam Haroon has been shown in Turkey as a part of Short Film Festival last year, can you provide some information about the background of the documentary?
The short film you are referring to is called ‘The Killing of the Imam’ which is a 10minute film that follows the same themes and uses the same filmic conventions as the feature length 80minute documentary ‘Imam and I’.
‘The Killing of the Imam’ and ‘Imam and I’ both look at the life, death and legacy of Imam Abdullah Haroon who was an anti apartheid activist and a Muslim community leader in Cape Town during the 1950s and 60s. The Imam was my grandfather and, as a filmmaker, I wanted to tell his story.
What motivated you to attempt to make this visible?
The motivation came from not having seen a film about the Imam or anything in the film medium. The books about him always inspired me and I wanted to find out about him as a man and a grandfather rather than the mythical image of him as a martyr.
The documentary is called “Imam and I”, what is the role of Imam cast in your life? Is this such a confrontation of the grandson and grandpa?
The Imam’s role in my life has always been one of a hero figure. I always knew he was my grandfather but I never knew him as such. He has always been very inspiring.
Many questions are raised from this film related to the life Imam and his time. The community reacting to his motivation as Imam, being unaware of his struggle is quite strange. When the Muslim communities in Cape Town did acknowledge his contribution to the struggle against apartheid. Or it happened so far?
It is true what you say but he has definitely been acknowledged by the Muslims of Cape Town and always is. Every year there is a commemoration of his life on the day that he died, 27th September. There is a lot of respect for him in the Cape.
The film reveals once more how to deal with this huge story. It is really challenging, appreciated. Do you think South African Black government appreciated Imam’s movement?
I'm not really sure. I would hope that they do and there have been some indications that they do but there have also been indications that the Imam’s legacy has been sidelined. This is another reason that I had to make the film and help towards writing our own history in the Cape.
In this case can we consider this movement as resurgence of Islamic political consciousness?
I don’t think so. The Imam’s movement was one of Islamic and political consciousness but I wouldn’t see it as a global resurgence. In all times there are always individuals who stand out but it will take a lot more for a global resurgence in Islamic political consciousness.
What struck me in this documentary more than his political activism is his enjoying daily life, being fond of James Bond movies and Rugby.
Yes that is what struck me about him, his humanism as well as his deep spiritual commitment.
Imam is well known by Turkish readers because of the translation of The Killing Imam more than Abu Bakr Effendi, Ottoman Kurdish Scholar, who arrived in Cape Town in 1862,. I am also wondering about what is unreadable in this combination of relations around the Imam. I am sure Imam left a very acknowledgeable inheritance to Cape Muslims that they still celebrate such a kind of tolerance coming from Islam. Thanks to Imam Haroon, the Islamic revivalism took another step forward In the Cape. Can you explain the affects of his heritage over Cape Muslims a bit?
I feel that his heritage for the cape Muslims today lies in a place of pride of association with him and a place of inspiration to be oneself and to always look for the good beyond yourself. To what extent that is manifested I am not sure.
And what’s next?
I would like to make a narrative feature film about the Imam’s life with actors etc… but at the moment it’s a dream as it is too expensive and there is no funding for it for now. I am now working on film about my father who was exiled from Libya when Gadaffi came into power and only returned last year when Gadaffi went out. My father was a major opposition member outside of Libya to the Libyan regime and I find the story of exile and home very interesting.