Jonathan Smith and Roger Guenveur Smith in 'Mooz-Lum'

*Hate has always been the poisoned water in the stream that winds through the valley of peace and it has proven to be an unavoidable fact that causes people, social creatures at heart, to be repelled and repulsed by one another.

But awareness is indeed the filter that removes the impurity of ignorance so that understanding can shine through. This is what director Qasim Bashir is trying to do.

His new film is titled “Mooz-Lum”, starring Danny Glover, Evan Ross, Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith and a host of other great talents, and it is based on the experiences and decisions Bashir himself had to make as a young man. It’s a coming of age story with a very up-to-the-minute sensibility.

The time frame is September, 2001, and college freshman Tariq Mahdi is trying like most freshmen to figure out where he fits in, but unlike most college freshmen in this country, he was raised in a strict and devout African-American Muslim household, and something about that experience has left him more confused and angry than most.

We happened upon a young brother by the name of Jonathan Smith who plays young Tariq in the film and got his take on things. Truth comes from the mouth of babes, as the saying goes.

“What I took (from the film) is that you should never just single out one race because it really just hurts people when you’re talking about something that you don’t really have an idea about,” explained Smith aka young Tariq. “I feel that I learned a lesson playing this role.”

If a 13 year old child has that kind of common sense, then why doesn’t rest of the world, could it be that the weight of adulthood crushes our empathy? It sometimes seems that way. Evan Ross plays the older version of Tariq. Some of our readers may remember him from his roles in “ATL” or perhaps even the new version of “90210.”

“I play Tariq in “Mooz-lum”, which is based on the story of director Qasim. He’s basically a young man that’s trying to find himself,” said Ross. “I think it speaks to all people, but what I find so great about it is that it gives us the opportunity to show the Muslim religion in an honest, truthful way. All the good and bad of every religion and the fact that we all are people and we all make mistakes, and that’s separate from the issue of religion. I think it’s a great film about awareness.

“I think it’s relevant for today for all kinds of reasons, not just for what’s going on right now. I think it’s been relevant in the last few years. I think that, in general, people need to be more aware. If you are ignorant to other people and other religions you are dangerous to yourself and others. I know what’s going on right now. It’s something I don’t really speak on because I’m here to be about the art and the work, but I’m hoping it will open people’s eyes and enlighten people.”

As the red carpet procession marched on, Mr. Ross graciously bid us farewell and reminded us to keep an eye out for his next movie called “Black Water Transit,” which also stars Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Dorf. It’s scheduled to be released in October. Though Danny Glover was not at the red carpet affair, and Nia Long was being whisked away to the “Mooz Lum” world premiere, her co-star Roger Guenveur Smith was gracious in allowing us a bit of his time and thoughtful in his responses.

“I think now more than ever we need to be taught about choice, about tolerance and about respect, and about intelligence,” he explained. “I think Mr. Bashir created a perfect vehicle for the discussion of all of those issues. It’s something that will inspire us to our higher heights and will inspire us to reject negativity. I’m happy to be a part of it and it’s wonderful to be here at Urbanword (Film Festival).”

“I play a very strict father who wants the best for his family and he sometimes comes into conflict with members of his family,” said Smith. “Just as he comes into conflict with the society at large. But I think, at the bottom, he has a good heart and I’m happy to be here sharing that heart with the audience at large.”

“Mooz-Lum” is masterfully written and directed by Qasim Bashir, who was so busy fielding interviews we couldn’t get at him with our microphone. But we’re very happy to be giving him props for a quality piece. His film was awarded the Audience Award at the Urbanworld Film Festival. After seeing the film ourselves it is no wonder why it’s deserving of such accolades. From here the fight begins for distribution and the ultimate goal is for it to appear in theaters. To learn more you can log on to http://v2dstudio.com/Moozlum/about.htm

Watch the trailer for “Mooz-Lum”: