Koran By Heart offers a compelling and nuanced glimpse into some of the pressures faced by the next generation of Muslims. In this 80-minute documentary, three 10-year-old children leave their native countries to participate in one of the Islamic world’s most famous competitions, a test of memory and recitation known as The International Holy Koran Competition. Up against much older students, these youngsters have committed the 600 pages of the Koran to memory, and will put their skills to the test before the elite of the world’s Muslim community in Cairo, Egypt. In the midst of this intense international competition, the three young competitors –two boys from Senegal and Tajikistan, and one girl from the Maldives – face uncertain futures at home, as they are caught between fundamentalist and moderate visions of Islam.
The children discuss their recitation techniques – with accompanying, completely improvised melodies – and talk about their nerves and excitement as they finally compete before a panel of judges. In addition to chronicling the excitement and pressure of the Koran Competition, award-winning filmmaker Greg Barker delicately captures touching moments with the children at home with their families, where they open up about life and religion, their academic dreams and career aspirations. As the competition reaches its climax, Koran By Heart offers a compelling and nuanced glimpse into some of the pressures faced by the next generation of Muslims. Director: Greg Barker, HBO (2012), Rated: NR (Not Rated), English, Run Time: 80 minutes.