Director's 'Jihad' opened Berlin's Panorama section

Parvez Sharma, whose “A Jihad for Love” opened this year’s Panorama Dokumente section at the Berlinale on Friday, is heading back to his native India for his next project, a Muslim Bollywood pic tentatively titled “Jihad: The Musical.”

Sharma has been traveling the international fest circuit with “A Jihad for Love,” which explores the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims.

Pic, a strong contender for this year’s documentary Teddy Award, has enjoyed a massive turnout in Berlin with a packed premiere, sold-out screenings and enthusiastic question-and-answers sessions.

“Islam is so contested in Europe right now and there has been a tremendous amount of resonance because people don’t get to see films about Muslims by Muslims,” said Sharma.

The helmer said he hopes the pic’s success “points the way forward for more Muslim filmmakers to showcase their works in festivals in the West.”

“A Jihad for Love” has attracted plenty of attention with what many see as a provocative title, but Sharma insists he’s taking back the word “Jihad,” which, in its traditional sense, can mean a personal religious struggle.

The doc has unspooled in Toronto, Rio, Morelia, Sheffield, Montreal, Delhi and Cape Town and will next travel to a slew of other fests, including Sydney, Thessaloniki and the Intl. Istanbul Festival for its first screening in a Muslim country. Pic is also headed for Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population on the planet.

First Run Features recently acquired U.S. theatrical and DVD rights to the doc, which was produced by Sandi Dubowski, who won the Teddy Award in 2001 for his pic about gay Orthodox Jews, “Trembling Before G-d.” Sharma, who is based in New York, plans to travel to Bombay (Mumbai?) following his globetrotting tour to make a more light-hearted Bollywood pic.

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