Alexander Kronemer, Executive Producer
Alexander Kronemer is the co-founder of Unity Productions Foundation and Executive Producer for Cities of Light. He is a writer, lecturer and documentary producer focusing on religious diversity, Islam and cross-cultural understanding. He has a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University, where his research concentrated on the philosophy of religion and comparative religion. In 1996, he was awarded a Joseph J. Malone Fellowship for Middle East and Islamic Studies, which funded him for a study tour of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Mr. Kronemer has published essays in numerous newspapers and journals, including The Southern Quarterly, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, Beliefnet.com, and The Washington Post. His articles have been included in several book anthologies, including the September 11 memorial book, Up From the Ashes (2001) and Wilber Prize winner, Taking Back Islam (2002).
His work has been supported by grants from numerous foundations and organizations, including the World Economic Forum, U.S. Institute of Peace, National Endowment for the Humanities, Packard Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Black Programming Consortium, One Nation for All, Montgomery County Commission on the Humanities, Proteus Fund and a Halberstam Writing Fellowship.
As a lecturer, he has delivered talks on religious diversity and Islam for the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of State, the FBI, the World Affairs Council, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, at many universities including the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Cornell University, Yale, Princeton, and Penn State, and at numerous private corporations, including Nike, Aetna, and Walt Disney World.
He has appeared as a CNN commentator on several occasions, including during CNN’s historic live coverage of the Hajj in 1998, which was broadcast to 400 million viewers. He has also been heard in many radio interviews, such as NPR and the Voice of America.
In 2000, Mr. Kronemer served a one-year appointment at the Bureau of Human Rights in the U.S. State Department focusing on the Middle East and Islam. During that year, Mr. Kronemer also served as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland.
He is the co-founder of Unity Productions Foundation, a non-profit corporation whose mission is to help bring peace through the media by creating better understanding of Islam and the world’s other faiths and spiritual traditions. He was creator and co-producer of the popular PBS documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. The film received a national broadcast on PBS and subsequent international broadcasts on National Geographical International. It was awarded a Cine Special Jury Award for Best Professional Documentary in its category of People and Places. With Unity Productions Foundation, Kronemer continues to produce documentaries for PBS and other broadcasters in the U.S. and abroad.
Michael Wolfe, Executive Producer
Michael Wolfe is the co-founder of Unity Productions Foundation and Executive Producer for Cities of Light. The author of books of poetry, fiction, travel, and history, Wolfe’s writing has appeared in many magazines and has been recognized by the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Commission, and the American Travel Writers Association. He has read and lectured at Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, SUNY Buffalo, Princeton, and many other universities. He has taught Writing and English at Phillips Exeter and Phillips Andover Academies, the California State Summer School for the Arts, and at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He holds a degree in Classics from Wesleyan University. For many years, he was the publisher of Tombouctou Books, Bolinas, California.
Michael Wolfe was a MacDowell Colony resident in poetry in 1968. He received an Amy Lowell Traveling Poets Scholarship in 1970, which was renewed for two further years. During this time he traveled and wrote in North and West Africa. His first books of poetry (World Your Own, Threshold), fiction, (Invisible Weapons, Creative Arts Publishing), and travel (In Morocco, Sombre Reptiles) derive from this period. In the 1980s, he returned to North Africa several more times. In 1990, he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca.
For fifteen years, Wolfe was sole publisher of Tombouctou Books, a small press enterprise located in Bolinas CA that published works of poetry and avant garde prose, including The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, two books of fiction by the Moroccan storyteller Mohammed Mrabet, and American fiction by Douglas Woolf, Lucia Berlin, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Steve Emerson, and Paul Bowles's final collection of short stories, Unwelcome Words.
Wolfe's first works on Islam were a pair of books from Grove Press on the pilgrimage to Mecca: The Hadj (1993), a first-person travel account, and One Thousand Roads to Mecca (1997), an anthology of 10 centuries of travelers writing about the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Shortly after September 11, 2001, he edited a collection of essays by American Muslims called Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press). Taking Back Islam won the 2003 annual Wilbur Award for "Best Book of the year on a Religious Theme."
In April 1997, Wolfe hosted a televised account of the Hajj from Mecca for Ted Koppel's "Nightline" on ABC. The program was nominated for Peabody, Emmy, George Polk, and National Press Club Awards. It won the annual Media Award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council. In February 2003, Wolfe worked with CNN-International television news reporter Zain Verjee to produce a new half-hour documentary on the Hajj. Wolfe has been featured on hundreds of regional and national radio talk shows.
In 1999, Wolfe helped found an educational media foundation focused on promoting peace through the media, Unity Productions Foundation. In 2002, UPF produced its first full-length film, called Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, a two-hour television documentary on the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad. The film, which Wolfe co-created, co-produced, and co-executive edited, received a national broadcast on PBS and subsequent international broadcasts on National Geographical International. It was awarded a Cine Special Jury Award for Best Professional Documentary in its category of People and Places. With Unity Productions Foundation, Wolfe continues to produce documentaries for PBS and other broadcasters in the U.S. and abroad.
Robert Gardner, Producer/Director
His production company, Gardner Films, is a family company that has produced for commercial and public television in the United States and internationally for over twenty years. In 2009 he completed, in association with UPF, Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. For the History Channel, he made Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire, a thirteen-hour series on the fall of the Roman Empire, shot in HD (broadcast 2008). Gardner Films completed, in association with UPF, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, a two-hour special, also shot in HD, about Medieval Spain during the time of Muslim rule and the eventual Christian conquest, broadcast nationally in 2007 by PBS. Also broadcast in 2007 was, Barbarians II, a four-hour continuation of the popular Barbarians series in HD, for The History Channel. The combined eight hours of Barbarians I and Barbarians II anchored Barbarians Week, filling the prime time schedule on the History Channel during the week of March 5th, 2007.
Other History Channel specials include The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci (Dec, 2005), a two-hour Marquee Special, and Plague (October, 2005), a two-hour Halloween Special, as well as, Barbarians I (Jan 2004).
Broadcast in 2001, Islam, Empire of Faith, is a three-hour documentary film series for PBS, exploring the first 1,000 years of Islamic history. The series was shot on film in Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Spain, Turkey, and Iran and featured extensive re-enactments and was narrated by Academy Award winner, Ben Kingsley. It is currently shown in high schools and colleges throughout the United States.
Lourdes Maria Alvarez is the director of the Center for Catalan Studies and a professor of Spanish at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Her primary research focus is in the cultural and literary relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews in medieval Spain, as well as Hispano-Arabic poetry from the same time period. She also investigates the influence of Islamic Spain in the contemporary Arab political and cultural imagination.
Brian Catlos is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received a Bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy and his Master’s and Doctorate degree in medieval studies from the University of Toronto. During his doctorate studies Catlos received the Governor-General of Canada's Gold Medal as the best graduate student in Canada. His book, The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims in Catalonia and Aragon 1050-1300 was named co-winner of the 2005 John Edwin Fagg Prize from the American Historical Association and studies the mechanics of social interactions of ethno-religious groups, especially Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages.
Ahmad Dallal is an Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and Chair of the Arabic and Islamic Studies Department at Georgetown University. He taught at Stanford University (2000-2003), Yale University (1994-2000), and Smith College (1990-1994). He earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Columbia University and his B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Beirut. His academic training and research cover the history of the disciplines of learning in Muslim societies, including both the exact and the traditional sciences, as well as early modern and modern Islamic thought and movements. His books and articles are focused on the history of science, Islamic revivalist thought, and Islamic law. He has also written essays and delivered numerous lectures on the background and aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
D. Fairchild Ruggles is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has taught architectural, art, landscape, and cultural history at a variety of universities and colleges, among them Cornell University, Binghamton University, and Harvard and in 2001 was invited to the University of Illinois to collaborate in the inauguration of its unique doctoral program in landscape history. Since the publication of her first book, Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain, Ruggles continues to publish essays and give lectures on the complex cultural conditions that gave rise to the art, architecture, and landscape of the Hispano-Islamic kingdom called al-Andalus.
Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf is the founder and CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society) and Imam of Masjid Al-Farah, a mosque in New York City, twelve blocks from Ground Zero. He has dedicated his life to building bridges between Muslims and the West and is a leader in the effort to build religious pluralism and integrate Islam into modern society. His published writings include the books Islam: A Search for Meaning, and Islam: A Sacred Law (What every Muslim should know about the Shariah. His latest book, What's Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West was rated by Christian Science Monitor among its top four books on religion.
Mustapha Kamal is currently a lecturer in Arabic, Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies, at the University of Illinois at Chicago and focuses on instruction of Arabic language and literature. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco before moving to the United States to complete his Masters and Doctorate degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. He frequently lectures on Arabic literature and music from Spain and Morocco, as well as social issues.
Chris Lowney is a former Jesuit who currently lives in New York, where he serves part-time as Special Assistant to the President of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), the leading U.S.-based Catholic charity providing health care programs and services to people in need around the world. Mr. Lowney is also the author of A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment, a book the Publishers Weekly called, “a bold and compassionate articulation of medieval Spanish history, with its complex interactions among Jews, Muslims and Christians, that speaks directly to contemporary international crises.”
David Nirenberg is the Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of the Humanities in Medieval History at John Hopkins University. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Yale University. His published work focuses on social and cultural relations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. His first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton Univ. Press, 1996), explored some of the ways in which violence both facilitated and disrupted the co- existence of Muslim and Jewish minorities with the Christian majority in the fourteenth-century Crown of Aragon.
Raymond P. Scheindlin is Professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary and Director of JTS's Shalom Spiegel Institute of Medieval Hebrew Poetry. He teaches and conducts research on the encounter of Hebrew and Arabic cultures in Spain, especially as embodied in the poetry of the two traditions. An expert on Arabic literature, Scheindlin also pursues an interest in literary translation. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and served for three years as the part-time Rabbi of the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn. He is a fellow and a member of the executive committee of the American Academy of Jewish Research and a member of PEN American Center, as well as a member several editorial boards.