I’m pushing HARD for this movie because whether it’s a classic or not, just the fact that it tackles such an unorthodox subject matter is compelling.
I appreciate these small indies that come from life experiences as observed or encountered by the writer or director themselves. They usually contain great realism and show flawed protagonists with interesting conflicts.
This particular film resonates with me, not only because it features an all Black cast with names and faces that we haven’t seen in a while (but who are great when given the right roles), but more importantly because it circles around 2 things that are close to home for me.
The first being the impact of the 9/11 attacks and the fervor and sentiment surrounding that during and after. The film is set mostly on a college campus, where the main character (played by Diana Ross‘ son, Evan) is attending and adjusting. I was in college when the attacks took place…Living directly across the street from The Pentagon to be exact, so I clearly remember all of the frenzy and madness.
Secondly, and more personally, this speaks to my coming of age as I was raised under Islamic principles and faith by a passively militant father who was a member of the infamous Nation Of Islam; known for its socio-political stance and race-motivated rhetoric, but more notorious for its outspoken members and imagery of Black men selling newspapers and bean-pies. Their adaptation of the Islamic following – preferably Sunni, developed a hybrid that usually Americanized and negroized alot of the religious dogma and highlighted certain parts and neglected others. The now satirized way of saying the universal Muslim greeting was coined by members of the Nation and their mispronunciation of the Arabic to the point where most Americans know it as ‘Salaam-A-Lake-Um’ as opposed to its correct pronunciation of
This is just a reflection of how that adaptation and subsequent blending in with the very lost Culture of African-Americans has given way to many of the popular ideas and misconceptions of Islam held by the majority of the U.S. The melding with political and racial agendas has made the ideals of a community-based and peaceful religion very murky and has even lead to off-shoots such as the 5% Nation of the Gods and Earths that was heavy among Afro-centric pot-heads in the 90′s. From fallacies of oppressed women having to dress like ninjas, to imagery of a constantly aggressive and non-smiling people who starve themselves for one month out of every year, Muslims have a bad rap in this country and most of the Western world. Alot of that is based on the inherent ignorance of our societies. And alot of that has been the doing of Muslims worldwide themselves. I’m pretty fuckin’ sure that Islamic Extremists causing mass atrocities aren’t helping that either.
As my father was more of a Muslim by description than practice, I was not one of those kids walking around with 4 Arabic names and white robes and kufi’s going to private neighborhood schools. In fact, I took more of a vested interest in the faith upon entering my teens, when I set out to teach myself how to pray in Arabic and bonded with my boy Randall, who was the first Muslim kid I ever met in life that was one by choice. Most Muslim kids that I knew of were all just like me; hood babies with Muslim names given by their fathers who were members of the Nation but failed to instill any hardcore Islamic influence. I had reached a point where I felt like more of a Muslim than my own father, who doesn’t even spell his adopted Muslim name the Arabic way…but eventually, after leaving college, I succumbed to the conflict that has always surfaced within myself about the inconsistencies within Islam. I started to analyze it again, remembering passages I’ve read, and looking at everything that’s been done in its name, and this caused me to distance myself from all religion as a whole. I’ve considered myself agnostic for a while now.
However, my upbringing under the codes of conduct have influenced my life choices irreversibly and it cannot be denied. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. A life without pork and alcohol is not a life lost. I do like balance. And I feel that the skewed view on Muslims is so much the majority that the actual beauty of the core essence of the religion is never seen. What it provides at the heart, is a structure that promotes a nearly rape-free culture that doesn’t objectify women and places her value at such a level that she is to be protected, not restricted. The teachings of appreciation for and usage of the Planet Earth is almost Zen-like, and the hygienic guidelines rival others in just how close to God one can be. There’s a solidarity between most eastern Muslims that is admirable to the point where everyone can learn from. Once again, it’s those things done by people in the name of their beliefs that fuck it up for the world!
Hope this movie touches on all these things while entertaining. As most movies that I wind up promoting and suggesting, this film is only showing as a limited release, and in NYC that means only at AMC theatre in Times Square, starting Friday February 11th. If nothing else, maybe folks will never pronounce it as “Mooz-Lum” again!