SXSW FILM 2010
By Dave Campbell | April 1, 2010
Director: Eyad Zahra
Writers: Michael Muhammad Knight, Eyad Zahra (screenplay), Michael Muhammad Knight (novel)
Starring: Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Rasika Mathur, Tony Yalda
Adapted from Michael Muhammad Knight’s novel of the same name, The Taqwacores follows Yusef, a first generation Pakistani engineering student who moves to Buffalo, NY to go to school. He moves into a large shared house with a group of Muslim punks; Umar, a tattooed straightedge Sunni who sports X’s on both hands, wild-man skateboarder Amazing Ayyub, pink-mohawked bondage pant guitarist Jehangir, and Rabeya the riot grrl who wears a burqa that is covered in band patches.
Yusef’s housemates soon introduce him to their Muslim punk culture and a hardcore Muslim punk rock scene that exists out west called Taqwacore (translates to: God-fearing hardcore). Taqwacore becomes a major influence over the house challenging their faith, and ultimately forcing Yusef to challenge his own culture in modern day America.
Seeing that the Muslim punk scene was fictional until it first appeared in the novel, the book is really the only reference for the characters in this subculture within a subculture. I only know a little about the Christian punk scene, and from that I do know, fundamentalism and punk couldn’t be more like oil and water. I’ll never understand the whole faith-based punk rock thing as long as I live; it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Regardless of this, the characters in this film are very defined and represent the many layers of the punk scene.
It was very easy to relate to their angst as they questioned something that was embedded in them from birth. The music gave them a release, camaraderie, and comfort for their “sins”. Tales of rebelling youth aren’t new, but The Taqwacroes combines these elements into a pretty compelling story. Along the way, some of the scenes felt a bit forced to me by director Eyad Zahra. It just seemed like there were gaps missing from the story that lead us to the pivotal moments. It’s somewhat easy to forgive this though mainly due to the talents of the impressive cast. I was also really impressed by the intensity of the third act. It would be spoiler-y for me to be specific, but there are some very heavy topics that come to a head; and let’s just say that it doesn’t get more punk rock than that.