Posted April 4, 2011 by Chris Patmore in Films

The Taqwacores

Slackistan, Microphone and Taqwacores are three movies

Slackistan, Microphone and Taqwacores are three movies that are giving a new voice to young Muslims and that voice is about breaking down conditionings and bringing down the old guard.

Reverberations of this have already spread throughout the Middle East. Ahmad Abdalla’s Microphone, which showed at London Film Festival last year, captured the Egyptian underground art and music movement in Alexandria, and the undercurrent of dissatisfaction before events flared up there earlier this year. On the other hand, Slackistan, by UK-Pakistani filmmaker Hammad Khan, and Taqwacores are two sides of the same coin. Slackistan shows the youths of Islamabad with too much money and time on their hands and no real focus, while Taqwacores shows young Muslims in Buffalo, New York challenging the status quo by becoming punks. The Taqwacores was actually a work of fiction by Michael Muhammad Knight that inspired a whole new music scene and a documentary – Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. However, this new film, which also had its UK premiere at LFF, is based on Knight’s original book, and features many of the bands that formed as a result.

In the punk spirit of the story, the film is shot digitally in an independent guerrilla style, although they did use a RED, which gives it a more filmic look, instead of shooting on DV to fully capture the punk ethos. However, this works in the context of the movie because it is fiction and not a documentary, and focuses on the characters not the technique. The film tells the story of Yusef, a conservative engineering student, who moves into a house with punks, skaters and a burqa-wearing riot grrrl. Despite breaking some of the rules of Islam (drinking, drugs, editing the Koran) they are still devoted Muslims who pray every day with the call to prayer played on an electric guitar. Full of contradictions and shocks, it also has humour, heart and a message, and Islam has always been about the message.

Chris Patmore