WHEN the COVID-19 pandemic forced Muslims in Manitoba and around the world to stay home for Ramadan last year, local filmmaker Nilufer Rahman saw an opportunity.

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This article was published 13/4/2021 (233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WHEN the COVID-19 pandemic forced Muslims in Manitoba and around the world to stay home for Ramadan last year, local filmmaker Nilufer Rahman saw an opportunity.

"At a time when all the mosques were closed, and people couldn’t gather as communities, I felt a need to capture that moment, to show how Muslims adapted in innovative ways and still managed to connect with each other," she said.

The result is The Year We Fasted Alone, which will be released this week as part of this year’s Ramadan, which begins tonight in Canada.

"Last year is the first year we experienced Ramadan alone," said Rahman, an independent filmmaker who produced the film through her company, Snow Angel Films.

"As someone who makes films for a living, at this very unique time I felt I should document how Muslims celebrated Ramadan last year."

Rahman put out a call for submissions during last year’s Ramadan. She received 35 from Canada, the U.S., U.K., Sudan, Palestine, Australia, and South Africa.

In the submissions, Muslims recount how they adapted to celebrating Ramadan alone and what the experience meant to them.

The film "shows the resilience of Muslim community," Rahman said. "Despite what they are going through, people are still hopeful, spending quality time with their families, building relationships."

There is also a sense of loss.

"There’s so much emphasis on community during Ramadan, fasting and praying together," she said, but also a sense of optimism and hope.

People in the film talk about how the pandemic enabled them to slow down, be more introspective, have more time to read the Koran and pray and feel closer to God, Rahman said, adding she hopes viewers will come away with a renewed sense of optimism after viewing the 40-minute film.

"It shows how we can still be connected, even if we are isolated and anxious," she said. "It can encourage us to find ways to make the most of the opportunities in front of us."

The short film would also be of interest to non-Muslims, Rahman said, giving them a sense of Muslim life around the world and what they are going through during the pandemic.

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It will also help them understand the importance of Ramadan for Muslims.

"It can dispel the idea some may have that Ramadan is an arduous time of suffering as Muslims, as we give up food and drink from sunrise to sunset for 30 days," she said.

Muslims are "excited for it" because it enhances their spiritual journey and causes them to think more about others and be charitable, Rahman said.

"I am really excited to share the film," she said, describing it as a labour of love. "It shows a bigger picture of humanity, of how people live, work, struggle and hope during this time."

A teaser for The Year We Fasted Alone can be viewed on YouTube. The link to the full film, which will be released later this week will be published on Facebook

faith@freepress.mb.ca

John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.