The Taqwacores

The Taqwacores


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Young, angry, punk and... Muslim? The Taqwacores will come as a shock to many people, much like the cult novel on which it has based. In fact, taqwacore has been around for some years now and in trying to serve as an all-purpose introduction this film risks losing touch with the character-driven drama at its core, but it's rescued by a strong sense of fun and an energy that keeps it moving forward.

Bobby Naderi is Yusef, a shy young man about to start college who, on the advice of concerned relatives, seeks out an all-Muslim household in which to rent a room. What he gets is probably not quite what he expected. Its black-painted, heavily grafittied walls and iconically disgusting kitchen are one thing. The angry young woman in a burka with a 'dyke' badge and the young man with a beard and mohawk playing electric guitar before he recites the Qur'an on the roof... well, they're another.

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The young woman is Rabeya (the excellent Noureen De Wulf), who terrorises traditionalists by gleefully talking about vaginas. The young man is Jehangir (Dominic Rains), a big taqwacore fan who dreams of bringing all his favourite bands together for a big concert, introducing Muslims to punk and punks to Islam. He speaks about Allah with real passion even if his approach is unorthodox, but of course, not everybody feels the same way.

Umar (Nav Mann) is getting angrier and angrier with what he sees as the low morals of the house. He is especially irritated by the Amazing Ayyub (Volkan Eryaman), who is three parts Iggy Pop and one part PCP. The arrival of a camp transgender friend doesn't help, and neither does an impressively destructive party. But the real threat to Jehangir's happy house comes from external forces. America is not an easy place to be a young Muslim. It's made all the more uncomfortable by the presence of fanatics who are prepared to get violent in asserting their vision of what Islam - and taqwacore - should be.

In many ways, The Taqwacores is punk movie-making by numbers. The outsider's viewpoint to let viewers in. The visual cliches. A familiar story pattern which, to its credit, draws successful parallels with Islamic stories in places. In many ways it's reminiscent of Dogs In Space but it lacks that film's skill in bringing together disparate story fragments with an ensemble cast. The script is often clunky, with far too much awkward exposition, and some of the acting is ropey. But there are moments of high comedy here and a sense of delight in speaking out that is very endearing. While the film isn't entirely successful being what it seems to want to be, it will really strike a chord with some viewers and prove an eye-opener for others.

Reviewed on: 02 Jun 2011
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A good young Muslim boy moves into a house where punk turns the tables on everything he thought he knew about Islam.
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Director: Eyad Zahra

Writer: Michael Muhammad Knight, Eyad Zahra

Starring: Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Rasika Mathur, Tony Yalda, Anne Marie Leighton

Year: 2009

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US

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