About The Film

In the midst of religious intolerance and extremism, one religion—the Bahá’í Faith—offers a path toward world peace by advocating the oneness of humanity’s major religions. Now, this groundbreaking documentary tells the amazing, little-known story of the origins of the Bahá’í Faith.

The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith recounts the founding of this new world religion in Persia by a Prophet known as The Báb. In the mid-1800s, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike were awaiting the imminent arrival of a Divine Messenger. Beginning in 1844, the Báb’s message, which included then-controversial ideas like the oneness of major religions and the empowerment of women, spread like wildfire across the region amidst this religious climate.

However, His groundbreaking new message presented a threat to religious and political leaders of the time, resulting in relentless persecution of the Báb and His followers. The Báb’s message ultimately triumphed with a growing number of faithful; today, the Bahá’í religion is practiced throughout the world by over five million people.

Combining dramatic reenactments with interviews of renowned historians, religious scholars and Bahá’í Faith experts, The Gate: Dawn of the Bahá’í Faith celebrates the brief, exciting life of a prophet and the indelible impact His message continues to have on the world today.

Experts

Dr. Nader Saiedi

Nadar Saiedi was born in Tehran, Iran and currently teaches Baha’i studies at UCLA. He holds a master’s degree in economics from Pahlavi University in Shiraz and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin.  For over 25 years he was a professor of sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 2013, he became the Taslimi Foundation professor of Baha’i History and Religion in Iran​.

His main interests include Babi and Baha’i studies, social theory, Iranian studies, and peace studies. Among his published books are: The Birth of Social Theory (1993), Logos and Civilization (2000), and Gate of the Heart (2008).

Layli Miller ~ Founder of Tahirih Justice Center

Layli Miller is the Founder and CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides free legal services and engages in advocacy on behalf of immigrant women and girls fleeing human rights abuses.  In its 20th year, Tahirih is located in 4 cities in the United States and has protected over 22,000 women and girls courageously rejecting violence.

Layli founded the organization in 1997 following her involvement as a law student in a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the United States…read more.

The case was that of Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old girl who had fled Togo in fear of a forced polygamous marriage and a tribal practice known as female genital mutilation. After an uphill legal battle, Fauziya was granted asylum in 1996 by the US Board of Immigration Appeals. This decision opened the doors to gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum. Using her portion of the proceeds from a book she and Fauziya co-authored about the case (Do They Hear You When You Cry? Delacorte Press, 1998), Layli established Tahirih.

Prior to joining Tahirih as Executive Director, Layli was an attorney at the law firm of Arnold & Porter where she practiced international litigation and maintained a substantial pro bono practice. Prior to joining Arnold & Porter, Layli was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, Board of Immigration Appeals.

Layli was named Newsweek/Daily Beast’s 150 Most Fearless Women in the World, GoldmanSach’s Top 100 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs, and won the Washington Post Award for Management Excellence. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three young children.

Dr. Joy DeGruy

Dr. Joy DeGruy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication, a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), a Master’s degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Social Work Research. Dr. Joy DeGruy is a nationally and internationally renowned researcher, educator, author and presenter. She served, as an Assistant Professor at Portland State University’s School of social work and now serves as the President of JDP Inc. Dr. DeGruy has over thirty years of practical experience as a professional in the field of social work. …read more.

She conducts workshops and trainings in the areas of mental health, social justice, improvement science and evidence based model development.

Dr. Joy DeGruy authored the book entitled Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, which addresses the residual impacts of trauma on African Descendants in the Americas. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) lays the groundwork for understanding how the past has influenced the present, and opens up the discussion of how we can eliminate non-productive attitudes, beliefs and adaptive behaviors and, build upon the strengths we have gained from the past to heal.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: “The Study Guide is designed to help individuals, groups, and organizations better understand the functional and dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors that have been transmitted to us through multiple generations.  The Guide encourages and broadens the discussion and implications about the specific issues that were raised in the PTSS book and provides practical tools to help transform negative attitudes and behaviors into positive ones.

Dr. DeGruy has published numerous refereed journal articles and has developed the “African American Male Adolescent Respect Scale” an assessment instrument designed to broaden our understanding of the challenges facing these youth in an effort to prevent their over-representation in the justice system.

Randall Robinson, and many more have praised the book. Susan Taylor, Editorial Director of Essence Magazine says that “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” is a master work…Her book is the balm we need to heal ourselves and our relationships. It is the gift of wholeness.” Adelaide Sanford, Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents for the State of New York states that “Dr. Joy DeGruy’s mesmerizing, riveting book is vital reading for our time…With Dr. DeGruy’s potent words we can and will heal.”

In addition to her pioneering work in the explanatory theory and book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, she has developed evidence-based models for working with children, youth, and adults of color and their communities.

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson is an actor/writer best known for playing the role of Dwight Schrute on NBC’s Emmy Winning, The Office. Wilson co-founded SoulPancake, a digital media company that seeks to tackle “life’s big questions” and Lidè Foundation, an educational initiative in rural Haiti that empowers at-risk women and girls through the arts. 

Wilson attended the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in drama in 1986. …read more.

He then enrolled in New York University‘s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts where he graduated with a MFA in acting and was a member of The Acting Company.

Wilson worked extensively in the theater in his early career, performing with the Public Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, Playwrights Horizons, The Roundabout, and The Guthrie Theater, among others. He was nominated for three Helen Hayes Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his work at the Arena Stage.

Wilson first appeared onscreen in 1997 in an episode of the soap opera One Life to Live, followed by a supporting part in the television film The Expendables (2000).

Wilson made his feature film debut in Galaxy Quest (1999), followed by a minor supporting role in Cameron Crowe‘s Almost Famous (2000). In 2002, he was cast in a lead role in Rob Zombie‘s horror film House of 1000 Corpses (2003). Beginning in 2003, Wilson played Arthur Martin, the intern at Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home in HBO‘s Six Feet Under, earning a Screen Actors Guild award for best drama ensemble for the series. He also had minor roles in America’s Sweethearts (2001), and the Melvin van Peebles biopic Baadasssss! (2003).

Wilson guest-starred in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Entourage, Monk, Numbers, Charmed, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, and Reno 911!

Dr. Moojan Momen

Dr. Moojan Momen is an independent scholar who was born in Iran, but was raised and educated in England, attending the University of Cambridge. He has a special interest in the study of the Baha’i Faith and Shi`i Islam, both from the viewpoint of their history and their doctrines. In recent years, his interests have extended to the study of the phenomenon of religion. …read more.

His principal publications in these fields include: Introduction to Shi`i Islam (Yale University Press, 1985); The Babi and Baha’i Faiths 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts (George Ronald, Oxford, 1982); The Phenomenon of Religion (OneWorld, Oxford, 1999, republished as Understanding Religion, 2008) and The Baha’i Community of Iran, vol. 1: The North of Iran (George Ronald, Oxford, 2015).

He has contributed articles to encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia Iranica and the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World as well as papers to academic journals such as International Journal of Middle East Studies, Past and Present, Iran, Iranian Studies, Journal of Genocide Research and Religion. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Dr. David L. Rowe

He came to teach in the History Department of MTSU in August 1981.  After receiving his PhD in 1974 from the University of Virginia, he had developed a career in historic preservation in upstate New York, and it was to teach and develop courses in that field that the History Department invited him to join the staff. Five years later he resigned from that program and developed additional graduate and undergraduate courses in other fields, notably in American religious history, his principal research field, in state and local history, and in history research and writing.  …read more.

Several of his courses, including the Historian’s Craft for undergraduates and Research and Writing in History for graduate students, became required.  He taught in the Honors program and periodically offered an interdisciplinary seminar entitled Living the American Dream. In the last ten years of his career Dr. Rowe engaged extensively in the enrichment of public school social studies teachers through such programs as Teaching American History and the Landmarks Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This led him to develop a pedagogical emphasis within the Department that resulted in a course particularly for students seeking teacher licensure, Teaching Historical Thinking.

Since retiring in May 2017, Dr. Rowe has engaged in two enterprises, serving and exploring.  The first has led to pursuing actively his role as Assistant to the Rector for Christian Formation and Liturgy at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  He has also served as consultant on a series of documentaries for the worldwide Baha’i Faith and for scholars pursuing topics in Millerite history. In fulfilling the second, he has traveled extensively, pursued his love of languages, and engaged in research on his home parish as it celebrates its 125th year of mission.

Dr. Omid Ghaemmaghami

Omid Ghaemmaghami is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Near Eastern Studies in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton. He holds a PhD in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from the University of Toronto, an MA in Islamic and Near Eastern Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and certificates in advanced Arabic from the Dalalah Institute in Damascus and the American University in Cairo (AUC). …read more.

Omid has taught and lectured on Arabic and Islamic Studies at universities and academic institutions in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Egypt and was the inaugural recipient of the American University in Cairo’s Waheed Samy Award for Excellence in Arabic Writing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, An Invented Tradition: Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Twelver Shi`i Islam.

Dr. Todd Lawson

He is an Emeritus Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto. His M.A. and PhD degrees are from the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Islamic Studies for over 40 years.

His area of specialization is Quran interpretation and how it varies according to time, place and pietistic orientation, whether Sunni, Shi’i, Sufi, or Modernist. He is also a specialist in the place of the Quran in the Baha’i Faith, especially the Bab’s interpretation of the Quran. Among his most recent publications are: Intimacy & Ecstasy in Tafsir: The Bab’s Earliest Quran Commentary (Brill 2018), The Quran, Epic & Apocalypse (Oneworld Academic 2017), Roads to Paradise: Eschatology & Concepts of the Hereafter in Islamic Thought, 2 vols, (with Sebastian Günther, Brill, 2017)

Dr. Catherine Wessinger

She is the Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans. Her publications include articles, book chapters, and edited books on women’s religious leadership in America, millennialism, and new religious movements. She is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism. She is co-general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. She is co-director of the Women in the World’s Religions and Spirituality Project, which is part of the World Religions and Spirituality Project online encyclopedia and archive.

Dr. Armin Eschraghi

Armin Eschraghi was born in Isfahan/Iran and raised in Germany. He holds an M. A. degree (1999) in Middle Eastern Studies (Orientalistik) and a Ph.D. (2004)  in Islamic studies from Goethe University Frankfurt.  He currently teaches at Goethe University and at the Sankt Georgen Divinity School. 

Dr. Eschraghi has published extensively on the early history and the religious doctrine and teachings of Babism and the Baha’i Faith.

Hooper Dunbar

Hooper Dunbar was born in California in 1937 and has worked as an actor, painter, and was a member of the Universal House of Justice. He lived and served for the Baha’I World Center for 40 years, he was a member of the Universal House of Justice from 1988 until 2010. He now lives in California, serving the Baha’i Community and paints in his studio.

Carolyn Sparey Fox

Carolyn is a professional musician living and working in the United Kingdom. Following her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London she worked with several prestigious London orchestras, including the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Menuhin Festival Orchestra; she was also involved in the first London production of Jesus Christ Superstar. …read more.

On moving to Scotland she became principal viola with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with whom she toured extensively in North America, Eastern Europe and the Scottish islands, appearing on BBC TV as a soloist in Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Carolyn then took up the principal viola position with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, appearing as soloist in Berlioz’s ‘Harold in Italy’ and the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, which with her brother Jonathan she has given over twenty performances.

Carolyn Sparey Fox is also an author, her book, ‘The Half of it was Never Told’, inspired by a deep interest in nineteenth-century Adventism which led her to recognise and accept the Baha’i Faith. Her book focuses on three Adventists living on different continents, drawing together their extraordinary histories into a fascinating timeline, culminating with the dawning of the Babi and Baha’i Faith.

 

Dr. John S. Hatcher

Dr. John S. Hatcher is Professor Emeritus in English Literature at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. He was Director of Graduate Studies in English and specialized in teaching medieval literature and creative writing. Dr. Hatcher holds a Ph.D. in Old and Middle English literature and linguistics from the University of Georgia.

John is an expert on the life and poetry of Tahirih, one of the leading followers of the Báb and an impressive historical figure in her own right. With co-author Amrolláh Hemmat, he has published The Poetry of Tahirih (2002); Reunion with the Beloved: Poetry and Martyrdom (2004); Adam’s Wish: The Unknown Poems of Tahirih (2008); and The Quickening: The Unpublished Poems of Tahirih (2011).

Additionally, Professor Hatcher has written more than twenty-three books, among them: From the Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert E. Hayden (1984), The Purpose of Physical Reality: The Kingdom of Names (1987), A Sense of History (1990), The Ocean of His Words: A Reader’s Guide to the Art of Bahá’u’lláh (1997), Understanding Death: The Most Important Event of Your Life (2009), The Face of God Among Us: How God Educates Humankind (2010), and In the Beginning Was a Word: How Language Knits Reality Together (2018). John has also published numerous scholarly articles, monographs and chapters in books edited by others.

Professor Hatcher has delivered numerous speeches in distinguished venues, among them the Hasan Balyuzi Lectureship at the 29th annual meeting of the North American Association for Studies on the Bahá’í Faith. Professor Hatcher has four children and seven grandchildren, and lives on a small farm in Plant City, Florida, with his wife Lucia.

 

Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh

Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh (d. May 17th, 2017), Professor Emeritus and history department chairman at Yale University, was born in Moscow in 1924, where his father (with Iranian-Azerbaijani origins) served in the embassy of Iran. After completing his early education in Moscow, he came to the United States and graduated Stanford University with distinction (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1946. He obtained his M.A. and his Ph.D. in Russian history from Harvard University in 1950.

Dr. Kazemzadeh taught at Harvard from 1954 to 1956, and then at Yale, where he was professor of history until his retirement in 1992. From 1998 to 2003, he served as a Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, initially appointed by President Clinton.

Dr. Kazemzadeh was also a well-known member of the Bahá’í Faith. From 1963 to 2000, he served as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. During his interview for the film, Firuz revealed that his great-great grandfather had been brought into the Faith by the Báb Himself during the Báb’s residence in the city of Isfahan! Firuz was a renowned defender of the human rights of the Bahá’ís in Iran; hundreds attended his memorial service at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, IL in 2017.

He was the author and co-author of a number of books on the history of Russia and Iran, as well as numerous articles and reviews for authoritative scholarly publications. Some of his writings include: The Struggle for Russian Azerbaijan, 1918-1920 (1947); Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864-1914: A Study in Imperialism (1968); The Bahá’í Faith in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1977); The Struggle for Transcaucasia, 1917-1921 (1981); and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás (1844–1921) in the Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project (2009).