Her three-minute short A Land Called Paradise, essentially a music video set to a song of the same name by Muslim country singer Kareem Salama, won a $20,000 grand prize from One Nation, a Muslim advocacy group that sponsored the film competition. Khan directed dozens of men and women of diverse backgrounds to hold up handwritten signs that express messages they want the world to know about them as Muslim Americans. The statements are as whimsical as “I, too, shop at Victoria’s Secret,” and as serious as “My sister died on September 11.”
One of the judges for the 2007 One Nation competition, former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, gave A Land Called Paradise high marks for its “beautiful cinematic language,” while journalist Mariane Pearl commended the film “for its freshness and sense of humor while addressing vital emotions felt by the Muslim population and the rest of us.”
Pulling off A Land Called Paradise was a major effort, Khan recalled. The project started with a question: “If you could say something to everybody in the world who is not Muslim, what would you say?”
“I sent out e-mails; I went to mosques; I used every major Muslim Listserv I could think of,” she said.
The first response Khan received was “Islam inhibits my suicidal thoughts.” “That’s when I knew that this was the video I was going to do,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought of that. I was trying to fix the representations of Muslims, but I don’t think I can speak for all of them. And this was my first clue. I got 2,500 responses, collected them, narrowed them down, and made the video.”