“Stranger at the Gate” - Wednesday, September 14 - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

“Stranger at the Gate” - Wednesday, September 14


Timely, award-winning documentary

“Stranger at the Gate”

about a planned hate crime
that takes a stunning turn 
debuts on The New Yorker
this Wednesday, September 14

The documentary short film is part of Jewish filmmaker Joshua Seftel’s decade-long effort to combat Islamophobia

“Astounding and impressively hopeful…
if only stories like this were more abundant, 
maybe we could turn the tide against hatred and toward love.”

–Cameron Geiser, FilmsFatale

“A remarkable story of redemption. . . . An Oscar contender.”
– Matthew Carey, Deadline Hollywood


“One of the very best films I’ve seen this year.
A front-runner for the Oscar. It’s magnificent.”

– Steve Kopian, Unseen Films

“When hate crimes are an everyday occurrence, 
this is a testament to our shared humanity.”

– Claire Baiz, Bright Lights Film Journal

The documentary short film “Stranger at the Gate,” a prize winner at this year’s Tribeca Festival, will be published by The New Yorker as part of the magazine’s award-winning New Yorker Documentary series and will début on newyorker.com and on The New Yorker’s YouTube channel on September 14th. “Stranger at the Gate” will be available worldwide.

The New Yorker’s short films in 2021 included two Academy Award nominees: the animated short film “Affairs of the Art” and the live-action short film “On My Mind.” Six of The New Yorker’s 2021 films were on Oscar shortlists, including: “Águilas,” “A Broken House,” “Affairs of the Art,” “Step Into the River,” “Les Grandes Claques,” and “Under the Heavens.”

“At this moment, when senseless hate crimes across the U.S. are an everyday occurrence, ‘Stranger at the Gate’ shines a light on our shared humanity and delivers a message of hope,” the film’s director, Joshua Seftel, said. “The heroes of this story show us that, if we offer kindness and openness to the people around us, transformational things can happen.”

Praised by film critics and considered a leading awards contender, “Stranger at the Gate” tells the true story of the U.S. Marine Richard (Mac) McKinney. Suffering from P.T.S.D., McKinney decides to bomb the mosque in his home town of Muncie, Indiana. When he arrives at the mosque to gather more information for his plan, the congregants, including Afghan refugees and an African American convert, welcome him, get to know him, and show him deep love and kindness. Within weeks, the story takes a stunning turn. Instead of committing an act of violence, McKinney converts to Islam and becomes president of the mosque.

“There are so many stories of hate crimes these days that make us feel hopeless,” the executive producer Lena Khan said. “This film is different.”

Stranger at the Gate shows the immense power of human connection and forgiveness—and the razor-thin line between tragedy and redemption,” said Soo-Jeong Kang, The New Yorker’s executive director of video.

“Stranger at the Gate” is the newest film in Seftel’s decade-long effort to combat Islamophobia and shatter stereotypes: “Secret Life of Muslims,” a set of shorts nominated for Emmy, Peabody, and IDA Documentary Awards. The strategy of the series, which has more than seventy million views to date, is to tell stories in many different formats, from short films to animations to music videos. Its partners include Vox, the New York Times, NPR, and now The New Yorker.

Seftel's deep commitment to the mission of his project stems from his having experienced antisemitism as a child. “When I began to notice the level of Islamophobia in the U.S., I thought, maybe I can do something as a filmmaker to give a more accurate depiction of American Muslims.”

The project met obstacles early on but picked up momentum when Donald Trump began his presidential campaign. Seftel has occasionally received hate mail for the work, but mostly he has been recognized with awards, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council Hollywood Bureau Media Award (shared with Sir Bob Geldof and director Lena Khan) and the upcoming El Hibri Foundation Peace Awards “Fearless Ally Award” which he will receive in late-October. Seftel is known for directing work with a social conscience. “I’ve been largely motivated by guilt,” Seftel jokes. “I originally intended to be a doctor like my father and hoped to heal people around the world. As a filmmaker, I hope to have the same kind of impact.” Seftel’s past work includes many award-winning documentaries, the Emmy-winning landmark series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the anti-war political satire War, Inc. starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei, and Ben Kingsley, and many award-winning documentary films.

• Joshua Seftel, director
• Lena Khan, executive producer
• Soo-Jeong Kang, executive editor, The New Yorker
• Richard (Mac) McKinney, film subject, former domestic terrorist
• Bibi Bahrami, film subject, founder of Islamic Center of Muncie
• Zaki Bahrami, film subject, Islamic Center of Muncie congregant


Firehouse: DCTV’s Cinema for Documentary Films
Tuesday, September 13th, at 7:30 P.M.
87 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013

Firehouse: DCTV’s Cinema for Documentary Films
Wednesday, September 14th, at 7:30 P.M.
87 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013

Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival
Thursday, September 15th, at 6:05 P.M.
1000 W. Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015 

Breckenridge Film Festival
Saturday, September 17th

WBUR City Space
Wednesday, September 21st, at 6:30 P.M.
890 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

Port Townsend Film Festival

Bend Film Festival

Omega Institute
Saturday, October 8th, at 8:00 P.M.
150 Lake Drive, Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Hamptons International Film Festival

Thursday, October 20th
341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET, United Kingdom

Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock
Sunday, October 23rd
48 Shelter Rock Road, Manhasset, NY 11030

Ludlow House
Wednesday, October 26th
139 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002

Sunday, October 30th
1318 Bay Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

Doctober Encore
Thursday, November 3rd
1318 Bay Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

Commonwealth Club
Tuesday, November 29th
110 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

The Rubin Museum
Friday, December 2nd
150 W. 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

“Stranger at the Gate” is the latest film in Joshua Seftel’s Emmy- and Peabody-nominated “Secret Life of Muslims” project (SXSW), which combats Islamophobia with filmmaking. Seftel, who experienced antisemitism as a child, has been committed to working on this subject matter for the past seven years.

At age twenty-two, Seftel made his first film, the Emmy-nominated “Lost and Found” (PBS), which exposed the conditions of Romania's orphaned and abandoned children and spurred the American adoption of thousands of children. His other award-winning films include “Taking on the Kennedys” (POV), “Ennis’ Gift” (HBO), “The Home Team” (SXSW), “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” (NYT Op-Docs, Tribeca), and the anti-war movie “War, Inc.” (Tribeca), starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei, and Ben Kingsley. He is also a contributor to the Peabody Award-winning podcast “This American Life” and a commentator on CBS's “Sunday Morning,” where he regularly interviews his eighty-five-year-old mother.



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