20,000 Dialogues is a campaign designed to bring people of different faiths together using films about Muslims to stimulate discussion and promote understanding. It's an educational outreach project of Unity Productions Foundation, a non-profit filmmaker with a mission to promote peace among some of the world's spiritual and cultural traditions. Part of that mission is to help people understand who Muslims are in a wider social and historical context. See "Why Muslims? Why Now?" for more information.
After our first film, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet was broadcast on PBS and then released on DVD, we saw that it was frequently used in formal interfaith efforts. Churches, university groups and other institutions would screen it and they liked it because it encouraged debate and discussion on the film's issues. As the film's producers we were invited to talk about it all over the country, and would often be invited to speak on a panel with religious leaders or academic scholars.
We saw that grassroots interests were spreading as well. People would tell us that their book club screened it, a group of college dorm-mates would watch it together, a family would watch it after they saw something on the news about Muslims, and so forth. All of these experiences made us realize that if we can make the film available and give people some guidelines for discussion, it can help promote positive dialogue. The project was then beta tested with the help of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington which further developed the model.
Enabling 20,000 Dialogues is an immense project, yet it still seems attainable and possible. We want these dialogues happening all the time, in big cities and small towns, and "20,000" Dialogues implies that.
Films will always spark discussion. Everyone has an opinion to share about a film and no one needs to be an expert. The two films used in 20,000 Dialogues are ideal because they get people talking about Islam and its connection to the Abrahamic tradition. Our hope is that people of diverse backgrounds use these films to talk to each other, and realize that despite our differences, we need to build bridges of understanding.
Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet is a PBS Documentary film that not only tells the story about the Prophet Muhammad, but also how his life influences the lives of American Muslims today.
Cities of Light charts a relatively unknown history about the rise and fall of one of the lost civilizations of the world- Islamic Spain. At its peak, it lit the Dark Ages of Europe with science and philosophy, poetry, art and architecture. It marked the Golden Age of the Jews as well as the Muslims, and eventually helped spark the European Renaissance. Its strength was its religious and cultural diversity.
Currently, UPF is only using its own films and is not accepting suggestions for other films.