- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 14:52
Stories of prejudice against Muslims have a tendency to be on the borderline of self-pity and a “holier-than-thou” perspective. A lot has been said about the challenges of living in America as a Muslim, especially in the racially charged aftermath of 9/11. But Qasim “Q” Basir’s long-awaited film, “Mooz-lum,” takes you on a journey of self-discovery of a young man in the midst of family, cultural, and socio-political chaos. It’s a story that offers truthful glimpses into the lives of people across America.
Based on actual events, “Mooz-lum” portrays the coming-of-age story of Tariq (Evan Ross) as he leaves for college. He was brought up in a Muslim household under the strict vigilance of his father Hassan (Roger Guenveur Smith). His mother Safiyah (Nia Long) doesn’t agree with Hassan’s tough upbringing method, and this creates a rift between the two, leading Safiyah to divorce her husband. Hassan sends Tariq to an Islamic boarding school where a painful experience leaves him scarred for life.
He grows up to be a self-conscious and confused young man, and withdraws himself from his family. He considers college as a way to take on a new persona, while trying to distance himself from his Muslim identity.
His Muslim roommate tries to invite him to Muslim Students Association events, but instead he tries to fit in with college life by partying and drinking liquor for the first time. But even with his newly acquired identity, he feels lost. He is not sure of what he stands for anymore because his experience of growing up in a Muslim household had too strong an influence on him to make him oblivious to his faith.
The films adds an alternate track to the storyline in the form of the constant disagreement between the college’s dean (Danny Glover) and a young professor of comparative religion (Dorian Missick) due to the professor’s unconventional teaching philosophy.
The turn of events after 9/11 changes everything: the college policies, the attitude of the students toward Muslim students, and most importantly, him. It brings him closer to his religion, family and who he is. But the film is not only about what it is to be a Muslim in America. It speaks to a wide range of people because of the variety of issues it addresses: a couple’s constant falling-out over the upbringing of their children, the anxious transition to college and the pressure to fit in, acknowledging and recovering from haunting memories, and the burden of struggling with an identity crisis in the midst of being confronted by two opposite cultures. The film touches beautifully upon these matters and draws the audience in as they shed a tear during heart-wrenching scenes or let out a cheer for the characters’ triumphs.
Veteran actress Long and new actor Ross (of CW’s “90210” fame) manage to deliver stellar performances, while Glover’s brief appearance in the film does not shine through.
Although the film’s title alludes to a common but incorrect pronunciation of the word “Muslim,” it manages to stay fairly objective by avoiding to stereotype one specific group of people.
“Mooz-lum” is also a great example of the power of a social media campaign. The film has had the Internet buzzing in anticipation since the trailer was first released. It was decided that the top 10 cities that get the most “demands” on Eventful.com would be selected for the film’s limited release. The film’s official Facebook page served as the anchor for all the promotions and information, and kept the people involved at each step. The film finally opened Feb. 11, with AMC 30 at The Block in Orange being one of the venues. The film’s Facebook page announced the film had a successful opening weekend with the “second highest per screen average in the country.” Due to the growing demand of people and positive reviews from critics, the film opened in more cities across the U.S.
You know a film has made its impact when it compels total strangers at the theater to share their reactions with one another by engaging in a hearty discussion. If that’s not a strong indication, then the huge applause at the end of a viewing in a crowded theater in Orange should vouch for itself.By Alnas Zia, Aslan Media Contributor