MARCH 22, 2023
USA | 7 minutes | 2022
Documentary short film directed by Melissa Tinambacan
Featuring Noor Assi, Sama Salah, Noureen Salah, Eyed Alsamhan, Nour Bilal
Muslim Among Mormons
Muslim students at LDS owned Brigham Young University explore their experiences as a religious minority on campus.
CineAsian Films (CAF): What inspired you to explore this subject for Muslim Among Mormons?
Melissa Tinambacan: I have a love-hate relationship with my university. I’ve enjoyed my time in the film program and all the amazing people I’ve been blessed to meet. But there are some deep rooted issues that are hard to ignore. Such as the homophobic honor code policies and a general culture that permits sexism and racism. People outside of the school often ask “why would you go to BYU if you’re queer/black/non-LDS etc.?” It seems like a simple question, but it is far more nuanced than many people want to believe.
With over 30,000 students, 98% of which identify as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, religion is a dominant part of the culture on campus. Many classes, even non-religious ones, will begin with a prayer. Walking through campus, you hear conversations about faith and God. I was curious about what this would be like for someone who grew up outside of this culture. Is it isolating? Have you faced discrimination? I found myself asking the same question that bothers me: Why did you come here?
CAF: What were some of the challenges you faced while making this film?
Tinambacan: I think the hardest part of making this film for me was not knowing what questions to ask or how to go about asking them. I have had Muslim neighbors and friends, but religion has never been a big topic of discussion. I think it’s normal to be nervous when diving into a new community, but as Sama says in the film, it’s important to ask questions.
CAF: What do you hope people can take away from watching this?
Tinambacan: I hope that people from outside of the BYU community can understand why we come here and why we choose to stay. For those connected to BYU, I hope that they can learn how to create a more inclusive environment, so that everyone regardless of their religion, gender, sexuality, or race can feel at home here.
CAF: Are you working on anything new right now?
Tinambacan: At the moment I’m researching different ideas that I could possibly develop. Recently I’ve been looking into some of the older members of my community. As a young person, I believe there’s a lot I can learn from older generations, but I also think they can learn from us as well.
Muslim Among Mormons is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your project.
Director: Melissa Tinambacan
Producer: Camille Gottscheck
Editors: Camille Gottscheck, Melissa Tinambacan
Cinematographer: Sophie Whitaker [additional cinematography by Camille Gottscheck, Melissa Tinambacan]