October 10, 2011 09:00 ET

Tenth Season of PBS's Independent Lens Premieres on Thursday, October 13 With "Wham! Bam! Islam!"

Can a Comic Book Challenge Western Prejudices, Stem the Tide of Extremism, Provide Positive Role Models for Muslim Children, and Make a Profit as Well?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - Oct 10, 2011) - Wham! Bam! Islam! follows one of the most intriguing recent stories to come out of the Middle East: the creation of THE 99, the first Muslim superhero comic book created by Kuwaiti entrepreneur Naif al-Mutawa. Wham! Bam! Islam! follows the tumultuous journey of THE 99 from concept to reality, from acclaim to censure by Muslim religious leaders, from the edge of bankruptcy to plans for theme parks, as al-Mutawa dodges cultural minefields and doggedly pursues his vision amidst obstacles only a superhero could surmount. Directed by Isaac Solotaroff, Wham! Bam! Islam! will kick off the tenth season of the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Mary-Louise Parker, on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10 PM (check local listings).

In 2003, Dr. Naif al-Mutawa -- a Kuwaiti psychologist, graduate of Columbia Business School, and father of four boys -- had a unique idea: create a comic book series with roots in Islam and Islamic culture. Al-Mutawa came up with the concept of THE 99, a team of superheroes who each exemplify one of the 99 attributes of Allah and fight together against evil. He saw THE 99 as not only a smart business model, but as an idealistic social endeavor. Believing that "Muslim children need new heroes," al-Mutawa's THE 99 would reinforce the traditional Islamic virtues of compassion, understanding, and tolerance, and provide a positive alternative to some of the extremist messages fed to young Muslims. He also hoped that THE 99 would help improve the image of Islam in the West.

Engrossing and fast-paced, Wham! Bam! Islam! is a fascinating look at what happens when ideals, money, religion, and pop culture collide in the global marketplace.

Play The Game -- The Hunt for the Noor Stones
In the role-playing adventure game based on THE 99 -- The Hunt For The Noor Stones -- players race against time and the villain Rhugal as they navigate the ancient cities of Baghdad and Cordoba in search of mythical stones referenced in Hindu and Arab texts and believed to contain infinite wisdom. With an accompanying middle school study guide, players lean about Muslim culture and history. The Hunt for the Noor Stones will be available to play online at beginning Thursday, October 13th.

To learn more about the film and the issues involved, visit the companion website for Wham! Bam! Islam! at Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, learn about other comic book characters who broke new ground, and read an interview with the filmmaker. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

The film is part of Diverse Muslim Voices, a multi-year media initiative to build awareness and improve understanding in the U.S. of the rich variety among Muslim societies. Funding is provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

About the Filmmaker
Isaac Solotaroff (Director)
Isaac Solotaroff has worked as a documentary producer and editor since 1998. His work has been nominated for an Emmy® and has received a special commendation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His last film, Visioning Tibet (2005), was acquired by American Public Television and selected for more than 30 international film festivals. Solotaroff's other films include Los Romeros, which was nominated for an Emmy in 2002, and his first film Belief Amended, Faith Revealed, which was chosen as "one of the outstanding documentaries" of 1999 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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