*The movie, “Mooz-Lum,” hit selected theaters across the country this past February and since then has taken on a life of its own, enjoying a huge following on social media sites like Facebook.
The film, directed by neophyte Qasim Basir, stars Evan Ross, Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith, Dorian Missick and Danny Glover. It was released on DVD June 14.
Pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing by his father (Roger Guenever Smith) and the normal social life he’s never had, Tariq Mahdi (Evan Ross) enters college in a state of confusion. New relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike challenges his already shaken ideals, and the estrangement with his mother (Nia Long) and sister troubles him. Slowly, he begins to find himself with the help of new friends, family and mentors, but when the attacks of 9/11 happen without warning, he is forced to face the past and make the biggest decisions of his life.
I caught up with Basir to talk about Mooz-Lum’s controversial subject matter and the making of the film.
Darlene Donloe: I understand that you grew up Muslim. Is this totally autobiographical?
Qasim Basir: It definitely has been dramatized for the screen. For the most part it’s true. Days and times have been changed. The situations are pretty much true.
DD: Was it hard or more cathartic to write?
QB: It was both. Anyone who reaches back and deals with things in their past and childhood, I think, have issues and I certainly did. At the end of the day, it turned out to be one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever done. I dealt with some things I didn’t realize were still affecting me.
DD: Like what?
QB: I can’t really give away too much of the film. But, there are things that happened to the young man when he went to a certain school. And, those things happened to me in real life. They are things I tucked away and didn’t really deal with until the writing of this screenplay. Dealing with the incident it showed me how it’s dealing with some of my personality traits today. It’s hard to say without giving the movie away.
DD: Why did you write this? You wanted to say what?
QB: I wrote it for a few reasons. One, there is an unbalanced media portrayal and has been for the last decade about Muslims. I needed to tell a story a little more accurate. I wanted to give a voice to a group of people who have pretty much been trampled on. And, number two, I wanted people who haven’t seen this side of the story – I wanted them to have a human experience with Muslims instead of this demonized version of extremists blowing things up. I wanted them to see a family that loves and feels and has happiness. Hopefully, it could open their minds a little more.
DD: What, in your opinion, is the biggest misconception about the Muslim faith?
QB: The fact, the idea that Islam represents something violent. There are certain people that do certain things in the name of Islam, which they have basically hijacked the religion. It’s such a small population in the grand scheme of things. But those are the ones that have gotten the attention. I was born and raised Muslim and I’ve never heard of that stuff. Everyone I’ve ever known who is Muslim is a compassionate and good person. Obviously there are some people that have done bad things, but that’s not because of Islam. That’s what I was trying to show in this film. It’s the people who take things into their own hands.
DD: I’ve noticed that when someone who is Baptist does something, the whole faith is not demonized. However, when someone is Muslim, the entire faith is looked down upon.
QB: I don’t take the accountability away from the Muslims who do these things. The fault is with them. They do things in the name of Islam, which is why people feel a certain way about it. We have to acknowledge that some people do these things in the name of Islam. Is it right, absolutely not! The fact is that Muslim people are effected by terrorists all the time. When these people blow up stuff, they blow up Muslims too. And, if something goes down here, Muslim people are afraid too and they don’t want to be hurt too. And, they’re trying to protect their families as well. This whole separation thing has to be fixed because right now there is this idea of us being ‘the other’ and people have to get rid of that.
DD: Talk about the feedback you’re getting about the movie.
QB: It’s been wonderful so far. It’s been great. I couldn’t ask for a better reception than what we’ve been getting. Look on our Facebook page – facebook.com-moozlum, the movie. There is a tab that says reviews. Most of them are really good. I’m really happy right now.
DD: After the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, I’m sure you’ve had some very interesting conversations.
QB: Yeah, The crazy part about that, I was in the United Kingdom when that happened. I was there for about a week and a half. It had died down by the time I got back. The people I’m around are very open-minded and very enlightened about the world and issues. I didn’t get too much of the feared conversations. It’s hard to say. I did have a couple where people didn’t believe it and stuff like that, but it wasn’t anything crazy.
DD: Lets talk more about the movie. How long to write and get it on screen?
QB: Initially, I wrote the first draft in a month. Anyone who knows about writing knows the first draft doesn’t really mean much. Draft after draft for about a year and a half, two years. We started shooting the end of 2009. 2010 was about getting it done – editing, music and then started showing it at the Urbanworld Film Festival. It won for best narrative feature. There were a few more festivals like the one in Chicago International Film Festival and the Cairo International film festival. Then we opened in theaters in February. I’m saying this all casually like it was easy, but none of it really was. It’s been a journey, but a good one. I learned a lot.
DD: The casting is fabulous. Nia Long, Evan Ross, Roger Guenveur Smith. Were Nia and Roger supposed to represent your parents?
QB: Nia and Roger, those characters were modeled after my parents. People have this idea about Muslim women – like they are weak. But, my mother and the women I’ve known have always been strong. Roger’s character and Nia’s character were modeled after my parents. Roger’s character is modeled after my father. The sister was modeled after my three sisters. It was a blessing working with these actors.
Check out the trailer for “Mooz-Lum,” HERE.
About Darlene Donloe / [email protected]
From her Plaxo profile page: I have been a journalist for more than 20 years. Within that time I have written about entertainment, travel, medical, sports, politics and more. I’m also a publicist. I’ve worked on high profile campaigns for Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson, as well as for individuals. When I’m not writing or doing publicity, I work as a massage therapist.