Film Poster for "Stranger at the gate." A woman looks down as a man across from her looks toward a building with an American flag.
Film Poster for "Stranger at the gate." A woman looks down as a man across from her looks toward a building with an American flag.
Academy Award Nominee: A U.S. Marine plots a terrorist attack on a small-town American mosque, but his plan takes an unexpected turn when he comes face to face with the people he sets out to kill


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NOMINEE - Critics Choice Documentary Award The Washington Post's Critics Pick | SPECIAL JURY MENTION – Tribeca Film Festival

Domestic Terrorism • Nationalism • Religion • Interfaith • Love • Kindness • Acceptance

Date of Completion: 2022 | Run Time: 30 minutes​​ | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript & Study Guide (Coming Soon) | Director: Joshua Seftel Producers: Conall Jones, Joshua Seftel & Suzanne Hillinger | Executive Producer: Lena Khan & Malala Yousafzai

After 25 years of service, U.S. Marine Mac McKinney returns home to Indiana filled with an all-consuming rage toward the people he had been fighting against. Still fueled by his desire to fight for his country, he plans to bomb the local mosque. But when he comes face to face with the community of Afghan refugees and others of Muslim faith that he seeks to kill, his plan takes an unexpected turn.

Mustafa Ali | Professional Wrestler (WWE)
“Bringing reality to film is not only an art but a responsibility to society. Mac's story in 'Stranger at the Gate' is a reality that society should all be reminded of; hate exists but so does love.”

Tom Kitt, Tony-Winning Broadway Composer | Next to Normal
“A true work of art and a needed message of hope. Visually beautiful and emotionally powerful and resonant in every way.”

Dan Okrent | Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writer
“Stranger at the Gate’ tells a taut, engrossing story that is both terrifying and, in the end, powerfully hopeful.”

Lena Khan | Film Director and Writer
“Lets us into the soul of the type of person we read news about, but rarely get to know...and we find out the journey can both be terrifying and utterly beautiful.”

Reza Aslan | Author and TV Host 
“A heartbreaking, heartwarming story of transformation that reminds us — at a time when we really need reminding — that love can conquer hate.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson | Astrophysicist and Author, Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization
“Moving and poignant. A reminder that redemption is the most civilized thing in civilization.”

James Lapine | Director, Playwright, and Screenwriter
“A film that brings us much needed hope for our future – a true story where kindness outweighs hate.”

Mikael Jorgensen | Wilco
“Stranger At The Gate’ is a refreshing, redemptive story that serves as an antidote to the demagoguery and vitriol that has come to define our current moment.”

Ezinma | Composer
“Writing the music for this project was deeply healing. I often feel hopeless when I watch the news and read the latest headlines; but ‘Stranger at the Gate’ reminds me of our capacity for humanity, love, and understanding.”

Austin DeBesche | Cinematographer
“It’s exactly what the world needs—people from different worlds and cultures just being and talking together.”

Elizabeth Lesser | New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of Omega Institute
“A brave and compelling film. A story of real people, divided, using a traumatic event to make change from the inside out. We need this film, and we need it to be viewed and discussed widely.”

Hussein Rashid | Barnard Professor
“Stranger at the Gate’ reverses many popular misconceptions about life in the US. The film shows us our veterans are not treated as heroes, and that religion can bring people together. Our future as Americans is in coming together, and Stranger reminds us of the potential cost when we don’t.”

Ivan Cash | Interactive Artist and Filmmaker
“This 30 min film f*cked me up. Got me ugly crying. If you want to be moved, like really inspired and touched by humanity and the transformative potential of the human heart, watch @JSeftel’s latest film”

Stefan Nadelman | Film Director
“The message is unimpeachable and cuts straight to the heart. It’s not about religion, it’s about humanity. Bravo! ok gonna dry my tears now.”

Andrew Bujalski, Film Director
"Direct and incisive, Stranger at the Gate takes an essential human story and mainlines it straight to the viewer's heart. By the end my face was streaked in tears--of equal parts heartbreak and inspiration--and I immediately reached out to share it with people I loved."

Nominee, Best Documentary Short Film | Academy Award®
| Critics Choice Documentary Awards
Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary ShortTribeca Film Festival
Grand Jury Prize | Indy Shorts International Film Festival
Social Impact Award | HollyShorts
Honorable Mention, Documentary Short Competition | RiverRun International Film Festival
Audience Award for Best Documentary Short | WoodsHole Film Festival
Best Short Documentary | Walla Walla Movie Crush
Jury Commendation for Craft in Storytelling | Port Townsend Film Festival
Best Editing | Breck Film Festival
Audience Award | Virginia Film Festival



Joshua Seftel is an Oscar®-nominated and Emmy-winning film director committed to telling underdog stories with strong social impact. His most recent film, STRANGER AT THE GATE, a 2023 Academy Award®-Nominee, Executive Produced by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, is a part of Seftel’s Emmy and Peabody-nominated Secret Life of Muslims project (SXSW), a series that has been viewed more than 70 million times. For the past several years, Seftel has focused on work that combats hatred, Islamophobia and shatters stereotypes, an effort which stems from the antisemitism he faced as a child.

Seftel is also known for directing the Emmy®-winning landmark series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the anti-war movie War, Inc. starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Ben Kingsley, and his regular appearances on CBS Sunday Morning where he interviews his 87-year-old mother about current events and social issues. The New York Times wrote of their conversations, "the word 'droll' seems as if it were invented for these two." He is also a contributor to the Peabody Award-winning podcast This American Life and to The New York Times.

Seftel received his first Emmy nomination at age 22 with his documentary Lost and Found (PBS), about Romania’s orphaned children. The film led to the American adoption of thousands of Romanian orphans. Some of his other award-winning films include the political campaign documentary Taking on the Kennedys (POV), the underdog sports film The Home Team (SXSW), the document of the first days of an 11-year old Pakistani refugee in New York City, Zain’s Summer (National Geographic), the behind-the-scenes film about Annie’s Broadway revival It’s the Hard Knock Life (PBS), and the portrait of a photographer obsessed with death, The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano (Tribeca Film Festival, New York Times Op-Docs) which won the IDA Documentary Award and became the most viewed Op-Doc of the year.

In the summer of 2021, Seftel was invited to direct the music video marking the reopening of New York City featuring Stephen Colbert, Idina Menzel, Sara Bareilles, Suzanne Vega, and others singing Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. The film launched Clive Davis’ Homecoming Concert in Central Park, was shown at Mets home games and in New York City taxi cabs across the city, and quickly became a social media hit. It has been seen tens of millions of times.

Seftel lives in Brooklyn with his wife, filmmaker Erika Frankel, and their two young daughters.