religion | September 21, 2015

The Fearless Filmmaker: Introducing New Speaker Parvez Sharma

In his critically acclaimed documentaries, as in his powerful keynotes, Parvez Sharma documents the most important conflicts facing Islam today. Remarkably, he does so as both a Muslim artist and as an openly gay man. He’s thus uniquely situated to report on both sweeping ideological policies and their very human, personal ramifications. Sharma’s story is of one man trying to find acceptance in a religion that often wants nothing to do with him: a tale of faith, redemption, identity, and daring for all audiences seeking to better understand the Islamic experience.

To Sharma, contemporary Islam is at war with itself. One of its most puritanical incarnations—the movement known as Wahhabism, practiced in Saudi Arabia and beyond—lies at the root of extremist ideologies that spread violence throughout the world. But Sharma argues that while critical, reformation must come from within—from devout Muslims fighting against states that police morality.

In his new film A Sinner in Mecca—called “a swirling, fascinating travelogue and a stirring celebration of devotion” by The New York Times—Sharma travels on a Hajj to Mecca, and brings back footage from the heart of Islam that audiences have never seen on screen before. His moving (and fearless) portraits of prejudice, belonging, and sexuality in both A Sinner and his previous film, A Jihad for Love, have elicited a storm of controversy and rave reviews. For his “wrenching … gritty … surreal and transcendent” visions (The Hollywood Reporter), Sharma has packed halls and theatres at over 200 live events around the world, appearing as a speaker before the UN, EU, US State Department, and Department of Homeland Security.

Defiant, moving, empowering, and ultimately enlightening, Parvez Sharma is the kind of filmmaker that autocrats and totalitarians despise. He reports from the front lines of the faith, capturing a fraught space between acceptance and exile, and uses the power of film to shatter stereotypes and change minds. With keynotes that transform into town halls—full of confession, empathy, and real communication—Sharma’s perspective has the ability to transform the world.

To hire Parvez Sharma as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau