A Jordanian filmmaker and producer is challenging stereotypes about Muslims with virtual reality films about Islamic history.
“We have been producers and filmmakers for over 10 years, but we never thought we would get into entertainment until we were at Disney,” Samah Safi Bayazid told Anadolu Agency.
Bayazid is co-owner of LightArt Media Productions and Light Art VR, a company she describes as “for entertaining Islamic virtual reality experiences.”
The idea for virtual reality films about Islamic culture came about when she and her husband were visiting the theme park. “We had so much fun,” she said.
“Why don’t we as Muslims have something fun like this?” she wondered.
“What if we could tell our stories and our heritage? And Islamic history in a super entertaining way, using cutting-edge technology, we develop our software,” she said.
Bayazid said his company had “achieved its goal of entertaining and educating people”.
The company produces films in eight languages, including Turkish, has four virtual reality films on Islamic heritage and is producing a fifth and a sixth over the next year.
The 33-year-old was in Istanbul to attend a two-day conference organized by Association Women and Democracy (KADEM), an Istanbul-based women’s advocacy group, in collaboration with the Ministry of Family and Social Services from Türkiye.
The theme of the Fifth International Summit on Women and Justice was “Cultural Codes and Women”, with Anadolu Agency serving as the event’s global communications partner.
“I am here to talk about the image of women and the portrayal of women in the media,” Bayazid told Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of the summit.
“I have worked in this industry for over 12 years and living in the United States I see how the way women, especially Muslim women, are portrayed in the media directly affects how we are treated and that sometimes causes Islamophobia,” she added. .
Telling our story
Bayazid cited the importance of “telling our stories as a Muslim producer and filmmaker” and said she would talk about the importance of telling the stories of Muslim characters.
Together with her husband Muhammad, Bayazid founded Light Art VR five years ago. “We decided that we wanted to produce entertainment for Muslim audiences around the world,” she said.
They started producing a computer-generated virtual reality company to show 8k resolution movies “that take you back in time to 1,400 years ago, to witness the history of Islam”, he said. she stated.
The Washington-based director also spoke about audience reactions. “So we achieved two different reactions because we have our Muslim audience and non-Muslims.”
Muslim audiences, she said, “screamed, laughed, cried” when they watched the society’s films.
Non-Muslim audiences had similar reactions but were surprised to learn facts about Muslim culture they didn’t know before watching the film.
“We did our project in New York just to share our Islamic culture,” she said. “They loved it and they said ‘we didn’t know all that information because it’s very informative’.
“For example, they thought Islam is a religion of violence. They told us that before they watched our VR experiences, they thought women were second-class citizens in Islam and were controlled by men,” she said.
“That’s one of the reasons to educate people and tell them about our Islamic heritage and culture, to tell our own story and story,” Bayazid said. “Because we’re not going to let others tell our story the way they want. It’s our job to say it the right way.