Quickcard Review - 46th Chicago International Film Festival CLICK HERE for complete coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF 2010)
Directed by: Qasim "Q" Basir Cast: Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith, Evan Ross, Danny Glover Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD
PLOT: Tariq (Evan Ross) is a college freshman who uses the chance of going away from his parents (Long, Guenveur) as an opportunity to forget about his Muslim roots. His angst is challenged by racial crimes that are fueled by post-9/11 racial anxieties.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Supporters of timely dramas that force the viewer to take a long look at oneself. While the film is based around Muslim characters, it is a universal movie that aims to speak to all colors and creeds.
Mooz-Lum is a movie that features a very strict Muslim family and 9/11, but is thankfully more interested in stirring ideas than controversy. There are predicaments that seem like they could cause discomfort, especially to those who would be struck close-to-home by the film. The depiction of instances of hatred, coming from both non-Muslims and also Muslims, bring together the film’s message, which is its strongest element. Mooz-Lum’s philosophy is that hatred is not immune to any person, regardless of their religion or background. And it is never justified, however fueled it may be by a wrongdoing. These moments are elaborated with characters often of striking mindsets – the hateful school administrator (Glover), the joking but respectful floor-mate, and even “T” himself. As a compelling story works, these people surprise us with actions that are actually more true to their (no pun intended) character. They start off familiar, but veer into directions that are only human. For better, and for worse.
With an exception of the Caucasian characters, who are the least dimensional, despite being at the heart of two important moments in the story. When young “T” is rejected by a white father while trick-or-treating, and when the events of 9/11 prompt a mini hatred riot inside “T”’s college campus. These moments work, but simple handling dilutes their effectiveness.
The events of Mooz-Lum, however they may be presented, are supported by overall strong performances from a cast that mixes familiar faces (Long, Guenevuer, Glover) with ones that should be finding more work soon, like Evan Ross. Ross is in control of his angst, and speaks to his audience beyond just gritting his teeth with tense facial expressions.
Within the story, there appears to be a quiet sense of frustration floating around. Whether this movie is indeed even slightly autobiographical, I have yet to confirm. (This especially feels apparent as the character goes by the name “T,” just as the writer/director Qasim “Q” Basir uses that letter in his credit billing.) But the frustrations of Mooz-Lum are never themselves hurtful, nor self-deprecating. If this is Basir’s story, he has certainly learned a lot from such events. Wisely, he doesn't let his story jump to conclusions.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10