Director Qasim Basir’s coming of age tale Mooz-Lum opened in theaters nationwide this past February and is now available on DVD.
Starring Nia Long, Evan Ross and Roger Guenveur Smith, Mooz-Lum offers a contemporary look at life for American Muslims and the challenges they face.
Based on the life of Basir, the story follows a young African-American Muslim college student in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as he questions his individual and collective identity. Mooz-Lum premiered at the 2010 Urbanworld Film Festival to rave reviews, and won Best Narrative Feature.
After a screening for the film in New York City Nia Long, Qasim Basir and producer Dana Offenbach spoke candidly about why audiences should support the film.
1. Story behind the name “Mooz-Lum”
“I was meeting with a man a few years back, maybe five years ago trying to get him to invest in this project I was doing. It never got made,” says Director Qasim Basir. “This man was a retired politician, so you’d assume he had a certain level of intelligence. He says to me during this meeting ‘I have a son about your age. The boy was doing well for himself and then he went and became a Mooz-lum! Changed the name I gave him, he stopped eating this and that.’ He went on this rant. So the title has to do with the misunderstanding of the faith.”
“I felt that I wanted to represent a woman who was contemporary,” said Nia. “Who was strong and who wasn’t afraid to make her own choices about her family and decisions as it relates to her religion. So for me it was definitely driven by the subject matter, the script, the story and knowing how passionate Q is. I was on the phone with Q’s mom and met his family and shot in a real Mosque. I was nervous because I wanted to play it right. I just watched and listened and repeat lines several times but we got it done.”
3. The Acting
Long offers one of her most powerful performances of her career and has nothing but praise for her co-star. “Evan Ross is one of the most beautiful spirits I’ve ever met in a long time,” says Long. “He’s beautiful to look at on screen. To be raised by one of the most iconic women in the world he is not effected at all. Diana Ross must have been a damn good mother. He’s a gentleman, he’s smart. He’s open, he’s passionate about what he’s doing. Very easy to trust him.”
4. Defying Stereotypes
Qasim: “I was being honest about my situation and what I know. My mother, my sisters have been this type of women. My mother really did that, but in real life she had five children and she left my father with those five children and started over again. That’s not something a weak, submissive woman does. When Nia put on that scarf and played that role it just took it to a whole other level.”
Nia: “I am all about having a sense of ownership so that my voice is not a talking head puppet character and give our young women something to aspire to. I want to reach people and have conversations that are meaningful. That’s what’s so great about this film. I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations after watching this film. My son saw the press packet on the table and he asked me why do those people have their heads wrapped up? He had no idea because his school doesn’t teach it. And he goes to private school. I’m not gonna tell you how much I pay for it. But You’d think that by fourth grade that they’d teach them something about America other than hot dogs and hamburgers. So as a mother it’s my job to teach him.”
“[Nia] represented the beauty of Muslim women,” says producer Dana Offenbach. ” Q put on the screen a depiction of Muslim women that are physically beautiful, strong, intelligent and the performance has resonated world wide. We’re distributing in six countries in the Middle East. We have video footage of young women in Cairo, Egypt thanking us for depicting Muslim women in this way. This was a gift to so many women. When you sit in a screening you hear the women responding.”
Watch the trailer for Mooz-Lum below and for show times in your CLICK HERE