In 2010 while journalists from around the world were trying to gain access to tell the story of the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy, David Osit was taping an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary on the developer of Park51, Sharif El-Gamal. Here we see a unique human side of the story, Sharif's family life, and the struggles of building a community center faced with such intense opposition. David shares what it was like being at the center of it all, and what drives him as a filmmaker.
Building Babel follows a year in the life of Sharif El-Gamal, developer of the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," a Muslim-led community center two blocks from the World Trade Center. With unlimited access to his home and office, the film paints a portrait of a Muslim-American businessman up against impossible odds.
Sharif El-Gamal, a passionate Brooklyn-born Muslim, sees Park51 as a centerpiece of his own Muslim American identity. Born of a Polish-Catholic mother and Egyptian-Muslim father, El-Gamal only turned to Islam after 9/11 shook his faith to the core, and sees Park51 as a way to give back to the Lower Manhattan community.
Married to a Muslim convert and the father of two daughters, Sharif represents an Islam that remains foreign to most Americans, especially given the way the media and politicians have continued to use Park51 as a point of controversy. Despite a principle goal of helping to rebuild Lower Manhattan, opposition to the plan has been virulent and non-stop.
Thousands of Americans have rallied against the prospect of a Muslim institution being constructed in such proximity to Ground Zero, and Park51 has become an internationally discussed symbol of Islam's relationship to the Western world. Building Babel follows Park51's development through the daily experiences and struggles of the men and women trying to make it a reality.
David Osit's Bio:
David Osit is a producer/director and composer whose work and music has appeared on Arte, PBS, HBO, TLC, CNN and Channel4 among others. David received his bachelor's degree at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, and studied refugee law at the American University of Cairo before pursuing a career in filmmaking, receiving his MFA in Social Documentary Film from the School of Visual Arts in 2011. His first feature documentary film, Building Babel, will be broadcast on PBS in 2013 and premiered at the DocNYC Film Festival in the fall of 2012. It will be screening again in New York on Sunday, January 27th at Sanctuary NYC, at West Park Presbyterian Church on 86th and Amsterdam.
For more info:
For more on the film visit www.buildingbabelfilm.com
. For more on David's upcoming projects visit www.davidosit.com