Mooz-Lum, the new film starring Evan Ross as a Muslim college student struggling to overcome his own issues about his faith, is a dramatic look at religious discrimination with a simple and powerful message: “Do not let a few people shape your opinion on an entire faith.”
The film follows Tariq (Evan Ross) as he leaves a strict Muslim household to attend a public university. Having firsthand knowledge of what happens when religion is abused and misused to control, Tariq tries to distance himself from his upbringing and define himself on his own terms.
“It’s a story about a young man’s journey toward self-discovery as it relates to his life being raised Muslim in America, and he goes to college in 2001 and basically has an identity crisis," said Qasim “Q” Basir, the film’s director and writer. “On top of that, 9/11 happens, which makes him sort of face things in his life that he never really expected he’d have to face, or he was basically trying to run from these things. He’s a guy who’s just trying to find his place in a place that was very unfamiliar to him.”
Qasim said the film was largely autobiographical.
“Tariq was me. I write this film from experience,” said Qasim, who also said that some of the scenes were dramatized for the film but "there’s a lot in there that’s true."
The movie is one of the first that attempts to tell the story of Sept. 11, 2001 from the perspective of American-born Muslims. Qasim wants Mooz-Lum to help counteract the stereotypes of Muslims that he believes have been prevalent in the media since that day.
“Muslims don’t really get a fair shot,” he said. “I think, largely, this whole discrimination thing towards Muslims and Islam began when our president at the time stood in front of this world and said ‘the Muslim extremists’ and ‘the Muslim terrorists’– connected those two words–and since then it’s been impossible to separate them from each other … and it’s not fair to the large majority of Muslims in this country and in this world.”
The film opens Friday, February 11 in 10 cities, including New York and Washington, D.C., but Qasim is hoping that word of mouth will help the movie’s distribution to additional theaters nationwide. So far, his appeal to the African-American community via social media and film screenings suggests there is an audience interested in seeing these untold stories in theaters. The film’s Facebook page boasts more than 80,000 fans.
Having an all-star cast doesn’t hurt when trying to spread the word about a “completely independent” film like Mooz-Lum.
Evan, Danny Glover, Dorian Missick and Roger Guenveur Smith offer memorable performances. Nia Long stands out as Safiyah, a loving and strong mother who doesn’t mind defying so-called "authority" to protect her son.
“Those performances are everything to this film. They took it to a whole ‘nother level," Qasim said. "Evan carries this movie like no other."
Some might feel that the subject matter was equally as strong. Although the story was told from a very specific point of view of religious tolerance, the theme of overcoming anger, prejudice and a painful past to heal and move forward is a universal one.
Watch the trailer.
-Tracy L. Scott