Australia / Jane Jeffes / 55 & 83 mins
"A prestigious film, Silma's School is a classic verite work. Through telling the story of a community-based private school that helps carry on the traditions of Islam in Sydney, the filmmaker shows the struggle of the school's founder overcoming impossible odds...a celebration and a tribute to an Islamic woman...and her faith. It is both heart-warming and powerful." - Mitchell Block, President, Direct Cinema, consultant to HBO/Cinemax
Silma Ihram is Principal and founder of Noor Al Houda (‘The Guiding Light’), an Islamic school in Sydney’s west. Noor Al Houda is the culmination of Silma's 20 year struggle to realise her vision to provide an Islamic education to local Muslim students. The dream sours when Silma and her husband Baheej discover toxic waste beneath the school they’ve established. The plot thickens when they discover that the Federal Airports Corporation which leased the land knew of the contamination. Silma decides she must fight. She re-mortgages, then sells her home, pours her superannuation funds into the case and launches a personal ‘jihad’ against the Bankstown Airport to save her school in this classic David and Goliath tale. Two million dollars in legal expenses and 125 court appearances later, Silma, her family, the teachers and students await the final verdict as the school’s fate hangs in the balance. Beyond the legal drama, the story told in Silma’s School provides the microcosm for some of the major issues faced by the current generation of Muslims growing up in the West in the post 9/11 era, but without the political rhetoric, the stereotypes and the firebrand mullahs. The complexity of this topic is given the additional twist of Silma herself being a Anglo Saxon Protestant convert to the Muslim faith. Silma’s School is the must see cultural landmark story of the year that explores what Salman Rushdie has called ‘the subject of our times’.