HBO documentary: “KORAN BY HEART”

An upcoming HBO special to air on August 1st that follows several young students of the Quran looks very interesting.



HBO Documentary Films is pleased to announce that KORAN BY HEART, the latest film from Greg Barker (SERGIO), will premiere on HBO Monday, August 1, 2011.

Called “SPELLBOUND in Arabic” (Variety), KORAN BY HEART was greeted by standing ovations at all of its recent Tribeca Film Festival screenings. It is an engaging and inspiring film about three 10-year-old kids – two boys and a girl – who come from all over the Islamic world to compete in Cairo’s prestigious Koran-recitation contest during Ramadan. The recitation of the Koran is a revered and deeply religious tradition, and this “Olympics of Koranic recitation” draws Muslim children from over 70 countries around the world.

Nabiollah from Tajikistan, Djamil from Senegal and Rifdha (one of the few girls participating) from the Maldives must memorize 114 chapters, over 6,200 verses, and 200,000 words in Arabic – and not one of them is a native Arab speaker. Moreover, the text is in ancient Arabic and is actually “sung” with improvised melodies; participants are judged on their competence, but also on the passion and beauty of their recitation.

A former freelance journalist and war correspondent, director Barker has seen firsthand the international struggles within modern Islam, a community of 1.6 billion people. With KORAN BY HEART, he not only creates a vibrant, entertaining look at this one-of-a-kind competition, but also captures the unique challenges faced by parents and the next generation of Muslims as they struggle to find the right balance between the secular and religious elements of their lives.

“A colorful and dramatic saga of human competition, with a fascinating setting and utterly irresistible pint-sized heroes, but it doesn’t soft-pedal the things about 21st-century Islam that are likely to make at least some Western viewers uncomfortable. Koran by Heart is a movie you've got to see.”
– Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

“[An] inspiring film. While watching, it’s easy to jump to judgments. When 10-year-old Rifdha first appears on the screen, I couldn’t help but think about the black hijab and dress she was wearing at this age. And that’s coming from me: a Muslim, Arab woman. But the film conveys the emotions of those children and their families as they go through this experience so deeply and brilliantly that soon enough you forget about clothes and any other opinions you might have and connect to them at a very human level.” – Hoda Osman (Pres., Arab & Middle Eastern Journalists Association), Huffington Post

To request a screener (for editorial purposes only) or book an interview with director Greg Barker, please contact Genevieve Villaflor or Susan Norget at (212) 431-0090 or /

79 minutes. An HBO Documentary Film.

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