by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
I went to a screening of the film Mooz-lum last night at the West End Theatre in DC. It was a small intimate theatre and there wasn’t more than, I’d say, 30 or so people in the room. I first heard of the film almost a year ago on Facebook. The trailer looked powerful and the subject matter is something that I was interested in the struggle of a Black-American Muslim between his identities. I was excited and determined to travel if necessary to see the movie once it got distribution. I forwarded the emails, I shared the links on Twitter and Facebook, I supported this film heavily sight unseen. I was just thrilled for a Tyler Perry Antidote. Something else that depicted a slice of black life in America. When my friend, Helena Andrews, forwarded me info about the screening, I could not contain my excitement. I asked a writer friend of mine to drive 3 hours from Virginia to accompany us to the screening. I spoke and tweeted and Facebooked for days about how excited I was to see the movie I’d been waiting for for almost a year! Sitting in the dark, small theatre space, I struck up a conversation with my friends about how important movies like this were and how we needed to support independent black films so that more could be made. We needed to put our money behind this young brother who wrote and directed and put his blood sweat and tears into this movie. His backstory alone was moving and I was interested in chatting with him during the Q&A that was to follow.
Then the movie started. Now don’t get me wrong, the opening scene was powerful. The credits scrolled on the screen in a pseudo Arabic font. The opening scene depicted a father and son in prayer. The father, seen as devout and focused, his son, less focused and barely able to keep his eyes closed through the short prayer. The scene where he finally pulls off and we’re shown just how unfocused the son is. I had expectations. I won’t spoil the film for you and to be honest, I made a decision about 10 minutes in, that I wasn’t going to review the film either. I just didn’t have the heart to critique this labor of love. As a matter of fact, I snuck out during the Q&A because the questions I had and the issues I wanted to raise were in direct conflict with my need to support the film. And honestly, people were so moved by the very existence of this film, who was I to dump water on them with my questions and confusion and need for plot and character development.
I’m still urging people to support the film because I believe in supporting independent work. I believe the motivation behind this film is almost more important than the film itself. I don’t have the heart to critique it. I just don’t. If I say I want an alternative to Tyler Perry in black cinema, I don’t just mean Tyler Perry. I have nothing against the man personally. I want to see fully developed characters and intelligent plots. I want to see acting that takes my breath away. I want to see a story that draws me in because it’s so well written and so well shot that I feel like I’m living in the screen with the characters. It’s not just about not being Tyler Perry, it’s about good films. And if we support this then perhaps we’ll get our Slumdog Millionaire or our Black Swan. Movies that capture your attention and your heart and spark debate because of how well they’re done and not because they were done by black filmmakers.
Go see Mooz-Lum. Make up your own mind but go. It’s existence is more important than it’s contribution to art.
You will never hear me say that again. Ever.
And then we can discuss it after you see it.
Oh, Evan Ross did a great job. I believed him. If the surroundings were better, he’d be nominated for something, somewhere. It’s a shame that this might actually be his best work.