May 24, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The Taqwacores

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Taqwacores

Today's movie: The Taqwacores, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is yet another one of the films I literally had never even heard of before subscribing to Netflix's "New Releases" RSS feed, the one single source that now inspires almost a third of all the new movies I ever even watch anymore, in this case a super-indie dramedy based on a super-indie novel about the burgeoning Muslim hardcore-punk-music community that's been slowly growing in America since 9/11.

The reality: Praise be Oliver! I have to say, this movie was a revelation, not just an incredibly smart deployment of some severely limited filmmaking resources, but a real eye-opening experience to just how varied and sometimes contradictory the global community of practicing Muslims actually is. Because for those who don't know, just like how Catholicism can become quite a different thing indeed depending on whether it's the Irish or Mexicans or Africans who are practicing it, so too does Islam take on all kinds of different flavors within different communities and cultures, from an almost hippie-like philosophy among pot-smoking Indonesians to the excuse for hate crimes among uneducated conservatives that we in the US are unfortunately a lot more familiar with. This fictional look at a rundown building in Buffalo, New York full of young Muslim punk-loving squatters, then (including not only all the people I've already mentioned, but such other fascinating characters as a cute Caucasian girl who converted to Islam for the same reasons Madonna became a Kabbalist, and a Muslim "straightedge" who's just as much of a self-righteous prick as his white atheist counterparts), is not just a story about music and teenagers and rebellion and all the other punk tropes, but is also a sneakily metaphorical examination of the global Islamic community, and especially as it boils and clashes within the hothouse environment of southeast Asia; and so as such, the finished film is not only nostalgically heartwarming to all my fellow aging '80s punk kids, but also a profound learning experience for us clueless Westerners, helping us to better understand such complex issues recently in the news as how someone can be a radical feminist and still voluntarily choose to cover the "shame" of their female flesh whenever they're out in public. A bit overly melodramatic at times, leftover baggage from the only so-so novel it was based on, The Taqwacores is mostly funny, unexpected, and emotionally moving in a simple way that feels very true to real life; and I admit, it's one of the few movies I've seen in the last year that my mind can't seem to stop returning to again and again at quiet moments, which I always take as a good sign. Just the latest in a whole string of 21st-century no-budget productions to greatly benefit from the explosion in quality of digital hi-def cameras, this clever, subversive coming-of-age tale can easily hold its own against most mainstream Hollywood flicks, and there's not a single doubt in my mind that fans of the CCLaP website will automatically be fans of this movie as well. It comes strongly recommended to all of you.

Strangest piece of trivia: Well, not trivia per se, but I just had to mention how entertainingly clever all the made-up Muslim punk band names and song titles were in this film, a few of which are repeats of actual Taqwacore bands in the real world but most of them deliberately made up for comedic effect, with my favorite absolutely having to be "Suicide-Bomb The Gap."

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:15 AM, May 24, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |