In 2017, several months after Donald Trump had been elected president, Amina Amdeen went to a Love Trumps Hate rally in Austin. Joseph Weidknecht, a Trump supporter, was also marching toward the capitol in a counter-protest, carrying a sign that read, “I stand with him.” When he was physically attacked by a group of antifa protestors, it was Amdeen, a sophomore at the time, who came to his rescue.
The group grabbed Weidknecht’s “Make America Great Again” hat and ripped it off his head. Amdeen said as someone who has had people try to rip her hijab off her head, something snapped inside her, and she decided to put herself between the protestors and the tall figure of Weidknecht. It was a gesture he never forgot.
“(Un)divided” is a 2019 documentary short film that tells the story of the interaction and unlikely bond the two found in the aftermath. The film was created by Doha Debates, a branch of the Qatar Foundation that attempts to offer solutions to global issues through productive debates, blogs, videos and films.
The documentary features Amdeen, a Muslim woman who grew up in Iraq before moving to America, and Weidknecht, a conservative Christian who has never left his hometown in Texas. The two engage in an open conversation with each other about their beliefs and how they may have changed after meeting each other.
In the film, Weidknecht admits that before meeting Amdeen, he believed that Islam was a violent, hateful religion. He said he thought there was no difference between Islamic State group and the Muslim faith.
“I didn’t think that Muslims and Americans could coexist. I thought Muslims were too radicalized,” Weidknecht said in the video.
Executive producer Katrine Dermody said “(Un)divided” is very representative of Doha Debates’ mission: bringing people together with different opinions and encouraging them to challenge their own beliefs.
“We wanted to showcase the importance of what an honest conversation can do,” Dermody said. “I think if we can all sort of take a lesson from Amina and Joe, we could be a little bit more open-minded and not judge so quickly. I think that Amina and Joe were incredibly patient and very passionate about what they believe in, but they were also very open minded to learning about the other person’s experience.”
Dermody said she thinks listening to someone with a different perspective can help people either strengthen their own resolve or possibly have their mind changed. She said the point of having these conversations is not to make everyone agree at the end but just to have them in the first place.
“I think the success lies in that neither one of the characters is the winner of the story or the loser of the story,” Dermody said. “One way or the other, I think you can find humanity in both of them, and I think that was really important to us.”
Director and cinematographer Paul Raila said he knew when he reached out to Amina and Joe that this was an important and interesting story. He said he thinks people need to allow themselves the space to learn from each other, especially people they disagree with.
“We all need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our beliefs and where we get our information and make sure that we’re not falling into this toxic cycle of just hating the other side,” Raila said.