Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

These videos explore the power of cross-cultural friendships in confronting hurtful generalizations and stereotypes.


7 - 12+


Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Human Geography, Religion

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Crosssing Borders Films

The relationship between the Muslim and Western worlds has been cast as a clash of cultures—a war between civilizations in which one is destined to prevail over the other. But is this so? What are the real attitudes and viewpoints of ordinary Americans and ordinary Muslims?

These video clips from the seventy-minute documentary Crossing Borders, created by Crossing Borders Films, aim to give a personal face to the “other side” through the experiences and interactions of four American university students and four Moroccan students traveling and living together in the moderate Muslim state of Morocco. By avoiding a focus on extremism, the videos provide us with a sense of ordinary citizens on both sides whose voices are often not represented by the media—citizens working to overcome the artificial separation between “us” and “them.” Through frank discussions, the featured students confront the complex implications of the supposed culture clash and build relationships that disarm hidden stereotypes.

Clip Summaries:

“On Stereotypes”: This clip introduces the group of four American and four Moroccan students who will travel and live together. The students express their concerns about stereotypes imposed on them and their hopes for this opportunity to get to know people from another culture.

“On Communication Styles”: The students have their first group discussion, which includes an emotional disagreement among the Moroccan students, and they talk about their communication styles and how their different cultures respond to disagreement.

“On Politics”: The students engage in frank discussions about politics, challenging each other on what the Muslim youth see as American abuse of power and what the American youth see as Muslims’ irrational actions.

“On Religion”: The students share the roles religion plays in their lives, how their actions are impacted by their beliefs and faith, and how extremists use religion for their own benefit.

Fast Fact

  • There is no scientific count of Muslims in the United States; however, the most commonly cited figure is six to seven million. Muslims in the U.S. are a diverse population, representing a broad range of ethnicities; this population’s members come from all of the five major continents.

Fast Fact

  • The niqab (veil) is a symbol of modesty within several Muslim cultures. There are a variety of interpretations within Muslim cultures of how the value of modesty should be expressed in the behavior and clothing of Muslims.

Fast Fact

  • The word “Islam” or “Islamic” should be used to describe the religion and its subsequent cultural concepts. The word “Muslim” should only describe the followers of the religion of Islam, for example, “The Muslim woman followed the tenets of the Islamic religion.” The word “Islam” is derived from the Arabic root “Salema,” which means peace, purity, submission, and obedience.

Fast Fact

  • Islam is the world’s second largest religion, with nearly 1.5 billion followers globally. Today Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion.
Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Elaine Larson, National Geographic Society
Arnd Wächter, Crossing Borders Films, Crossing Borders Films
Christina Riska Simmons
Elaine Larson, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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