NEW YORK TIMES CRITIC'S PICK | STRONGLY RECOMMENDED - Video Librarian | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Educational Media Reviews OnlineIslam • Muslims in America • People of Color / Black Narratives • Death + Grieving • Criminal Justice • Religion + Spirituality • Mental Health
Date of Completion: 2020 | Run Time: 82 minutes | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director: Zeshawn Ali | Producer: Aman Ali
An intimate documentary about faith, renewal, and healing, TWO GODS follows a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in New Jersey, as he takes two young men under his wing to teach them how to live better lives. Inside a corner casket shop in East Orange, laboring amid the sawdust and the long pine boxes, casket makers work with mentors in the Islamic burial tradition. Hanif, a Black Muslim casket maker who finds spiritual grounding in his work, brings two boys from the local community under his tutelage; 12-year-old Furquan and 17-year-old Naz, neither of whom have fathers at home. Hanif teaches Furquan and Naz the practices of Islamic burial rituals as they assist him with his work. Having formerly served time in prison, Hanif continues to grapple with past mistakes and new challenges, while his faith and community helps him guide his young charges on their own paths toward healing and embracing life.
Shot in a striking black-and-white, TWO GODS explores the juxtaposition of grief and the rituals of death with the vibrancy and potential of adolescence. The documentary turns an empathetic lens on Muslim American stories, ultimately crafting a moving portrait of both the intimate moments and the complexities of the everyday Muslim American experience.
The New York Times Critic's Pick
Two Gods "is a compelling portrait of a Black Muslim man in Newark who builds caskets and mentors two children ... With depth of feeling and warm black-and-white photography, Zeshawn Ali’s humble documentary 'Two Gods' fully acknowledges how death is a part of life."
Educational Media Reviews Online | Daniel L. Thacker, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Altoona
TWO GODS "earns a rating of Highly Recommended for a new look on Islam in America and the power of mentorship. It would work well with Sociology, African American Studies, Religious Studies, and Criminal Justice courses."
"Filmmaker Zeshawn Ali captures all this in murky black and white images that resonate with the unpredictability of every day and the fallibility of each of us. When Hanif fails at one point to live up to the standards he has set for himself and for the boys, Two Gods will sadden a viewer and yet remind us that what matters is we keep trying. This edgy, often heartbreaking film redeems itself with constant restorations of faith. Strongly recommended."
The Hollywood Reporter
"A timely portrait of lives lost and redeemed."
"Two Gods is an astonishing and powerful debut by Zeshawn Ali. Presented in black and white, the story unfolds in shades of moral grey as we witness powerful characters who rise and fall when subjected to difficult circumstances. The film exudes humanity through every frame. The patience and precision of Ali’s craft elevates this sentiment ... The end result is an astonishing and beautiful debut by a rising talent. The film provides a wonderful glimpse at a community, one rocked by violence and turmoil, but still able to navigate through hope. As an audience, we are blessed with both the craft and the documentation of sublime empathy that Ali brings to the film."
Hammer to Nail
"Ali expertly gathers footage to profile the travails and personal growth of his protagonists. It’s a moving, profound odyssey."
Eye For Film
Two Gods "stands as a testimony to the importance of community support and the healing powers of the rituals that surround grief in any religion."
Best Documentary Feature | New Orleans Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for Cinematography | Montclair Film Festival
HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Black Star Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival
Camden International Film Festival
Nashville Film Festival
DOC NYC Film Festival
Black Harvest International Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH ZESHAWN ALI
Director of TWO GODS
Zeshawn Ali was born and raised in Ohio and is a graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. He was a part of the directing team on the "30 Days Ramadan" series and recently released his first feature documentary film Two Gods, which received support from ITVS, Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute and Ford Foundation. It was also a selection at Hot Docs, Full Frame, BlackStar, DOCNYC and Camden Film Festivals and won the award for best documentary feature at New Orleans Film Festival. It will be premiering on broadcast on Independent Lens in 2021. He is a member of Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and Meerkat Media. He is currently based in New York.
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH AMAN ALI
Producer of TWO GODS
Aman Ali is an award-winning storyteller in New York City. He’s made appearances on dozens of media outlets including the NY Times, CNN, Buzzfeed, NBC News and HBO to tell stories about the Muslim American community. He is also one of the creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a 25,000 mile road trip he took to all 50 States in the U.S. with the mission of telling profound stories about Muslims in America.