*This weekend, you’re in for a treat … if you ‘re into urban crime thrillers.
The highly debated film, “Joy Road” which stars Wood Harris, Jamie Hector, Nbushe Wright, Obba Babatunde, and Roger Guenveur Smith will be in theaters on Oct. 21 at select theaters in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Chicago, and of course Detroit, where it was filmed.
The story focuses on a successful lawyer who finds himself a bit overwhelmed after he agrees to help this troubled sister defend her boyfriend after he’s been arrested for murder. He ends up in the middle of a conspiracy to pass laws that fill up prisons. It looks like a good one.
*Culver City, CA. – It’s a wrap! The 19th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival concluded several days ago. The festival took place February 16-23, 2011 at the Culver Plaza Theatre.
The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film and arts festival. This year, more than 100 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.
“Experience Your World” was this year’s theme with films, panels and workshops, Children’s Fest, Spoken Word Fest, Night of Tribute. All of these events delivered as promised to engage, inform and enlightened the audience.
Once again, I had the pleasure of viewing some amazing films. The first being Africa United. The movie was about several youngsters embarking on a trip to the World Cup in South Africa. The kids were very determined to reach their destination. They demonstrated a lot of tenacity, persistence and perseverance. I’m hoping that the group of teenagers in the screening came away with the same message and more.
Ni Wakati (It’s Time) followed M1 (Dead Prez) and Umi (P.O.W.) on a trip to Kenya. The movie’s subtitle summarizes it well “this is hip-hop redefining the African Experience.”
The Manuscripts of Timbuktu is another historical movie about the historical documents/manuscripts that date back to the early 1400′s. This is also a powerful movie about black icon Ahmed Baba whose legacy is prominently felt in present day Timbuktu.
Besouro is another powerful movie about another marvelous icon from Brazil. Manuel Henrique Pereira was a legendary capoeira fighter from Bahia. HIs legacy continues on all over Brazil, as capoeira was finally recognized as a cultural treasure.
Play Again deal with the sad fact that many young people are addicted to technology and the consequences that result from said addiction. This movie is starting a grassroots movement to get kids, teens, and adults to turn off their electronic gadgets, and get outside and enjoy nature more often.
Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae-this movie had everyone bopping their heads to the contagious music featured in this documentary. This is a must have DVD if you enjoy the memorable music of Jamaica from 1966-69, considered by many to be the golden age. The movie featured discussions with and performances by Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Hopeton Lewis, Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles, U-Roy, Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Hux Brown, Bongo Herman, and Scully Simms with special guest appearance by Rita Marley.
Red Hope? The Blacklisting of Hope Foye (Her Story, Her Songs) Film goers were fortunate to view this historical documentary as well as to be in the presence of Hope Foye. She is a remarkable lady still performing and teaching other vocal students her singing techniques.
Corner Store (see photo above) – This movie brought back a lot of fond memories for me while growing up in Tampa, Florida. This hilarious movie, directed by Joe Doughrity and features Roger Guenveur Smith and Judge Mathis is a must see movie as it makes the film festival circuit. The director is scheduled to host several screenings for residents of Detroit in the summer. I’m hoping that between now and then, that a distributor pick up this very funny movie. The director mentioned that there will be a sequel, as “this movie has the potential to become a franchise” stated Roger Guenveur Smith.
PAFF hopes these films with global appeal will open the minds of its audiences, and transport them to lands far away and back home again … without ever packing a suitcase.
And without further ado, the winners are:
Best Picture (Narrative Feature)
Besouro (Brazil), directed by João Daniel Tikhomiroff Honorable Mention:
The Athlete (Atletu) (Ethiopia), directed by Davey Frankel & Rasselas Lakew Best Documentary Feature Thunder Soul (USA), directed by Mark Landsman Honorable Mention:
War Don Don (USA), directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen Best Short Film (Narrative Short) The Abyss Boys (South Africa), directed by Jan-Hendrik Beetge Honorable Mention:
Hear Me (USA), directed by Kenn Michael
First Feature Film by a Director (Narrative Feature) I Will Follow (USA), directed by Ava DuVernay Honorable Mention:
Hopeville (South Africa), directed by John Trengove Audience Award Narrative Feature The First Grader (Kenya/UK), directed by Justin Chadwick Audience Award Documentary Feature Film (Documentary Feature) Gang Girl: A Mother’s Journey to Save her Daughter (USA), directed by Valerie Goodloe Audience Award Short Film The Black Mozart in Cuba (Guadeloupe), directed by Steve James Pan African Film Festival Board of Directors Awards Best Short Film Precipice (UK), directed by Julius Amedume Best Documentary Film The Manuscripts of Timbuktu (South Africa), directed by Zola Maseko Best Feature Film (Best Feature Narrative) Viva Riva! (DRCongo/France/Belgium/South Africa), directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga Honorable Mention: The Child, (Nigeria), directed by Izu Ojukwu The Figurine (Nigeria), directed by Kunle Afolayan Pan African Film Festival-British Academy of Film and Television Arts/LA (BAFTA/LA) Festival Choice Award I Sing of a Well (Ghana), directed by Leila Djansi.
The goal of PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particulary those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding ad foster communication between people of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the importance issue of our times.
The 2011 Pan African Film Festival is sponsored by the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Arts Fund, Macy’s, Wells Fargo Bank, Sony Pictures Entertainment, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and the Africa Channel.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: email@example.com.
*When it came to writing the movie, “Mooz-Lum,” director/writer Qasim Basir took to heart the adage, ‘write what you know.’
The semi-autobiographical drama, currently in limited release, tells the story of a young, American Black Muslim, who, in the days leading up to 9/11, enters college and becomes conflicted about his identity. Emotionally he can’t shake his strict Muslim upbringing, but at the same time he’s tempted and wants to become his own person.
This is a noble first effort from Basir, who crafted an intimate look at Muslim-American life in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has effectively put all the elements of good film making together – acting, directing, casting, subject matter and a remarkable script.
Set in Michigan, this is a powerful feature film debut for Basir, who actually lived several of the situations the character Tariq Mahdi (Evan Ross) experiences in the movie.
“All young people want to fit in with everyone else,” said Basir, who wrote the script in 2007. “One of the hardest things to do is to tell a young person to find comfort in their ambiguity. I wish there was another way to convey that. But, I don’t know how yet. Sometimes you have to just let people go through an experience.”
A powerful presence in the film (whose title represents the mispronunciation of “Muslim”) is Tariq’s father played with incredible steadiness by Roger Guenveur Smith.
“Qasim wrote a very strong character,” said Smith. “I enjoyed playing the character because he was real and he had dimension. My character is driven by his faith and wants to best for his family. For me this was a chance to play a solid character within a good script that became a very good movie. It’s not often that we get nuanced, complex family stories that resonate in personal ways. This movie is really about love.”
Smith plays a man (Hassan Mahdi) who is absolute in his resolve for the Muslim faith. He’s a devout Muslim determined to have his son live his life the same way. After his wife, Safiyah Mahdi (Nia Long) leaves with their daughter, he sends Tariq to an Islamist school, where he is beaten unmercifully for trick-or-treating on Halloween. In addition, that same night, he is criticized for being a Muslim by the father of a girl with whom he had a secret friendship.
After Tariq goes to college his eyes are opened to women, liquor, rock concerts and a kind of freedom he, at one time, could have only dreamed of. His fellow Muslim classmates and a Muslim professor try to get him to respect his roots, but Tariq, who insists on being called, “T,” is having none of it.
Evan Ross (“90210″, “Pride”) is brilliant in this poignant film, as he effectively displays comfort and discomfort.
In fact, Basir assembled a solid cast. Nia Long, who plays Tariq’s mother delivers one of the most incredible performances by an actress this year, displaying strength and compassion in a ‘man’s world’. Smith always brings it home as does Danny Glover and Dorian Missick.
Qasim 'Q' Basir, director of 'Mooz-lum'
“When I got the script it wasn’t good it was great,” said Missick, who portrays a comparative religion professor in the film who is young, hip and Muslim. “It touched upon subjects that a lot of films don’t touch on. And the way he handled it. Plus, he wrote it from a place of knowledge. ‘Q’ didn’t have to guess about what it would be like to struggle with your faith, he lived it. This movie resonated with me.”
Missick, who stars in the television show, “The Cape,” learned about the Muslim faith in high school while dating his then girlfriend.
“Her family was Muslim, so I learned a lot about the faith just by being around her family,” said Missick. “I remember her mother being this incredibly strong individual who ran the house. In fact, Nia Long’s character is much like my friend’s mother.”
Getting the movie to the theater was nearly a four-year ordeal, but Basir stayed the course.
“I was discouraged, there were a lot of discouraging things that took place along this journey,” said Basir, who hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan. “But, there was not one single moment where I thought this wouldn’t happen. I feel very connected with the divine.”
While his own faith remains strong Basir, who is Muslim, shakes his head at the notion that the Muslim faith is looked upon in such a negative way.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about my faith is that it is something that is violent,” said Basir. “That’s just insane to me. I’ve never been in a more comfortable place in my life than in the presence of Muslim people. There is just this underlying respect and love for God that does not allow them to do things that are hateful.”
With a subject matter that is still incredibly sensitive in America, Basir has no doubt about the movie’s importance and relevance.
“I’m very confident about this movie and where it can go,” he said.
The independently produced and distributed movie is already a huge success by exceeding expectations at the box office last weekend earning $12,712 per screen – reportedly one of the highest per screen averages in the country. AMC Theatres® (AMC) had the film exclusively in 10 cities on 11 screens.
“I always knew that if we could just get this film to the people, they’d show up,” said Basir. “And although we didn’t open in every city, those people should know that we’re coming.”
“Mooz-Lum,” directed by Qasim ‘Q’ Basir, stars Evan Ross, Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith, Dorian Missick, Danny Glover, Summer Bishil, Kunal Sharma.
“Mooz-Lum” is Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some violent content. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Check your local listings.
*Timing couldn’t have been better for a new film premiering this month set against the politically-charged backdrop of the Sept. 11th attacks, and what it means to be Muslim in 21st century America.
Evan Ross, Danny Glover and Nia Long star in “MOOZ-lum,” which is scheduled to debut Sept. 17 in New York as part of the Urbanworld Film Festival.
Nia Long in the film "MOOZ-lum"
Written and directed by Qasim Basir and filmed via a multi-faith, diverse production team, “MOOZ-lum” is billed as one of the first American features depicting the life of a young Muslim-American.
Ross stars as Tariq, a young African-American Muslim entering college who just wants to “fit in.” Overcoming deep personal traumas in his search for identity, he struggles to reconcile a difficult personal, religious history with his new changed reality.
Long plays Tariq’s mother and Roger Guenveur Smith stars as his father.
Roger Guenveur Smith in "MOOZ-lum"
Basir has written the story as much from his own passion and experience as he has from observing the world around him.
“The recent incidences of violence and hatred in response to the building of a Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero have put us significant steps backwards,” says Basir. “My hope is that ‘MOOZ-lum’ will allow for the world to witness the diversity amongst Muslims, our faith and the connectedness to a common humanity, and in turn lead to further understanding and tolerance.”
Summer Bishil also stars in “MOOZ-lum,” which is currently seeking distribution.
Watch the trailer and a behind-the-scenes video below.