Hot Docs 2015: Possessed by Djinn – Dalia Al Kury 

 

Hot Docs is well underway, and today, I got a look at this intriguing offering, Possessed by Djinn, which screens at the ROM Theatre today at 6:00.

Director Al Kury takes us inside the dark superstitious corners of the Islamic faith, that no one seems to talk about, but innumerable people believe. One could argue, once again about this religion, that it’s not so very different in a lot of ways from some forms of Christianity.

Do demons and angels actually exist? Many religions believe they do, and Islam is no different, and they call them djinn. These beings walk a parallel world next to ours, seeing us, impacting our existence, and on occasion taking control of a poor unsuspecting body.

When her interest on the subject is spurred on by the death of a young girl at the hands of her father, amidst neighborhood complains that he was possessed by a djinn, Al Kury investigates these beliefs with the of political unrest of Jordan in the backdrop. Moving from story to story, family to family, it seems many people have had encounters with these entities, but few speak of them, even the Bedouin had their tales in the desert of strange voices and apparitions.

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What Al Kury has created is a rare and fascinating look, a flashlight in the dark, pointed to the deepest of corners in any religion, supernatural beings and their effect on our lives. We hear stories and tales from all manner of people, including social workers, doctors and faith healers, of exorcisms, demons, curses, and rampant superstition.

Even the director’s own family has had its own experiences with this unusual phenomena, and her mother regularly walks the house with incense, reciting verses of the Quran to keep the house and family safe.

As Al Kury tries to make sense of Aya’s death and understand what could have possibly come over her father, superstition flows everywhere and seems to be in the corner of every house of the neighborhood. She tries to explore the roots of these supernatural beings, learning their history and how it interweaves with her religion and culture.

Wonderfully photographed and giving the viewer a glimpse a culture that most Westerners don’t understand, and even fear, it makes for required viewing. An engaging subject, aptly handled, honestly and objectively portrayed by the director.

Possessed by Djinn screens two more times during the festival, Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 and Friday, May 1 at 4:15, both at Scotiabank. Check it out!

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