|Crew: ||Executive Producers: Shelly Bancroft, Julie Baines, Nick Francis - Producers: Anthony Haden-west - Screenwriters: Anthony Haden-west - Cinematographer: Yaniv Dabach, Nic Sadler, Gwenaelle Gobe, Philippe Berrier - Editor: Marc Francis, Simon Sykes|
I lost 83 colleagues on September 11th 2001. I was running an investment firm in New York at the time. The events left me stunned. The anti-Muslim hysteria that followed revolted me. Newly a US citizen, I harboured the hope that my American homeland would pause, contemplate and show wisdom in its response.The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq swept those illusions away.My background is Judeo-Christian yet Muslim men and women have always been a part of my life. From a young age in Morocco, the Islamic world I knew was warm, family-oriented, peaceful. I took a hard look at my American Wall-Street life and saw myself participating in a system that was spreading religious strife and carelessly sowing destruction through the world.I dropped the corporate job, the Ferrari and the South Beach home to spend time trying to understand fundamentalist Christian militancy today: the vast US missionary movement. So, armed with a camera and very few pre-conceptions, I filmed 4 Christian missionaries through Muslim parts of Africa for nearly 6 years. Through the life of my African namesake Anthony Weston, through Bishop Higgins and two quite extraordinary women, Vicki and Jennifer, I witnessed inspiring joy in community and the glory of forgiveness but sadly, only after seeing unspeakable violence and dark abuse of religious authority.This journey has left me pondering what it means to call oneself American, Christian or Muslim, today. I finally also wonder at the treatment of womankind by the world's two main monotheistic religions.
Anthony Haden-west came to film late after a hectic twenty year corporate career that left him feeling lucky but spent and lacking. He says that it was when he started seeing 'Film' through the eyes of a student that the desire to live and tell an adventure took hold.
He was born in Madrid and raised in Paris. His father was English, mother French and is now an American national. He says that he thinks of himself as Euro-trash, only with a blue passport. When talking about his multi-cultural formative years, he says "For 11 years at an international school, I sat next to the children of those who shot down and killed my uncle over Dunkerque and amongst the offspring of those who'd looked the other way as their Jewish neighbours were taken. But we were not there to judge or seek revenge. Casting out the 'others', nourishing resentment never made sense; we were taught early that this was self-defeating. Compassion and understanding, even for one's tormentors, was the right thing. This wasn't specifically Christian, it was just right."
His career in investment services began as an analyst, collecting information, collating and then communicating his research. These results were published in specialist journals; in excess of 90 publications over 10 years. A few bits and bobs appeared in the Financial Times and Le Monde and then, much later, in London School of Economics and University College London papers. He says ' It was then that I developed a taste for meeting and interviewing people and getting them to tell me stories that I would organise, synthesize and then pass on, albeit in a rather dry language. I acquired a deep connection to the art of imparting understanding.'
When his father died quite suddenly, he had just finished writing a book, 'Living Without God'. Although it was his own story of wrestling with religious authority, the text itself was actually full of faith. Anthony says "Dad's own interest in 'God' and what it means to humankind was something he passed on to me. I am fascinated by how belief in 'God' can bring us together yet can also incite so much violence in some."
"When New York's twin towers were destroyed, and US foreign policy plumbed new depths, with religiously fuelled rage often in the background, the stage was set for me to break from my bourgeois existence and start my own adventure in faith. Film, rather than prose, has turned out to be my medium."