Every challenge to the First Amendment seems to bring to the airwaves some version of an angry atheist versus a sputtering religious pundit. Cooler, calmer heads seldom make an appearance.

Now, a new feature-length documentary from a first-time filmmaker hopes to put a more human, middle-of-the-road face on American atheism. Called “Hug an Atheist,” the film will make its debut Saturday (Sept. 14) at the fifth annual San Francisco Atheist Film Festival before seeking wider distribution at other film festivals and on television.

The 90-minute film is the project of Sylvia Broeckx, a 35-year-old Belgian who lives in England and has been an atheist and humanist since her teens. She became interested in America’s perception of nonbelievers when some American friends and fellow atheists shared their own stories of feeling marginalized.

“I always assumed America was founded on freedom of religion and was very much like Europe where if you are an atheist it is no big deal,” she said. “When I discovered that in America being an atheist could be a big problem, that was really a shock to me.”