Parents' Guide to

Koran by Heart

By Matt Springer, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Moving, sensitive documentary challenges stereotypes.

Movie NR 2012 80 minutes
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The easiest allegory when discussing Koran by Heart is Spellbound; Koran by Heart tugs at the heartstrings in the same way that film does. Spellbound is the 2002 documentary chronicling children as they prepare for and compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Here we have three similarly precocious kids demonstrating exceptional skills and also preparing to compete -- this time in the Holy Koran Competition in Cairo. They will go up against folks much older than they are and perform excerpts from the 600-page sacred text, written in a language they may not understand.

But Koran adds another layer of meaning to the story, acting as a window into the day-to-day life of modern moderate Muslims from around the world. These are devout believers who are not extremists, who preach peace in the place of violence, and who gather to celebrate their holiest text with this competition. Taken along with a powerful exploration of Islamic culture, these close-ups of wide-eyed kids eager to please and amazed to be on the other side of the world are more than just heartwarming vignettes of childhood -- they're deeply meaningful glimpses of a culture unfairly maligned by American politics and the extreme actions of a disturbed few.

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