Review: ‘Holy Wars’

Documaker Stephen Marshall orchestrates a deft detente between representatives of Islam and Christianity.

Documaker Stephen Marshall orchestrates a deft detente between representatives of Islam and Christianity in “Holy Wars,” an absorbing, evenhanded study of religious fundamentalism. Marshall’s tack is simple enough — interview a Christian and a Muslim, both passionately devoted to their respective beliefs — and his cool, agnostic approach effectively modulates the intense battle of wills that develops between the uniquely compelling subjects. Cable seems the ideal showcase for this small but thought-provoking item after its DocuWeeks run and possible fest sojourns.

Irish-born, London-based Khalid Kelly is a stocky, voluble Muslim convert; Aaron D. Taylor is a bright young Missouri evangelical who preaches in some of the most dangerous regions of the Middle East. Both men are knowledgable, devout and outspoken, but when they meet (at the 45-minute mark), Taylor’s comparably tolerant approach shrinks under Kelly’s gale-force attack on “corrupt” Christianity. Middle-ground viewer sympathies are likely to gravitate toward Taylor, but Kelly, who’s handed some ironic revelations of his own in Pakistan, emerges a poignant, disturbing reminder of how lonely, and dangerous, the righter-than-thou road can be. Clever animation depicting the two religions’ opposing/overlapping views of the end-times highlights an OK tech package.

Holy Wars

Production

A Smuggler presentation in association with Revolutionary Theory. Produced by Brian Beletic, Brian Carmody, Lisa Kawamoto Hsu, Allison Kunzman, Patrick Milling Smith. Executive producers, Beletic, Carmody, Smith. Directed, written by Stephen Marshall.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Nathan Crooker, Marshall; editors, Dan Swietlik, Jay Nelson, Tina Nguyen; music, Asche & Spencer; animation, MK12, Panoptic. Reviewed on DVD, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Aug. 3, 2010. (In DocuWeeks.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Khalid Kelly, Aaron D. Taylor, Dave Taylor, Pam Taylor, Sam Harris, Eliot O'Brien, M. Shahid Alam, Sadullah Khan, Omar Bakri, Dianne Kannady, Abdul Muhid, Abu Izzadeen, Sulayman Keeler. Narrator: Stephen Marshall.

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