In Qasim Basir's poignant and dramatic debut film, 'Mooz-lum,' Evan Ross shines as he leads a cast of acting vets (Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith, Danny Glover, and Dorian Missick) in a film concerning the Muslim community post 9/11.
Released in limited theaters thru AMC Independent, the film is worth seeing simply because of the phenomenal acting by the ensemble and a plot that will generate debate once audience members leave the theater.
As the film flashes back and forth from the past and present, we are introduced to Tariq (played by Jonathan Smith initially, followed by Evan Ross), son of faithful Islamic follower Hassan Mahdi (played by Smith), and Safiyah (played by Long).
Tariq's household is filled with tension as Hasson's strict rules and codes puts a strain on his parent's marriage as Safiyah wants Tariq, and his sister, Taqua (played by Kimberley Drummond) to lead a normal life but reluctantly follows Hasson's lead and allows Tariq to grow up in a Muslim environment.
Away from his father's rules and adjusting to a Islamic school, Tariq's life is changed when his friendship and crush on a white girl (played by Molly Paddock) is discovered by one of his teachers. Tariq is later punished for defying school rules when he leaves the premises.
Years laters, when he finally enters college, Tariq isn't keen on having another Muslim (played by Kunal Sharma) be his roommate as he tries to hide his background from his peers. Having his sister come for a visit doesn't help out his situation either.
Tension at the school escalates when the college dean (played by Glover) and one of his professors (played by Missick), who happens to be a Muslim, don't see eye to eye on his way of teaching. When 9/11 occurs, emotions run high as Tariq has to decide who he wants to be in public.
Partly based on his own life, Basir injected a lot of issues that many can probably relate to when it comes to race relations. As Tariq, both Jonathan Smith and Evan Ross strongly carry the film, with Ross demonstrating that he can be a leading actor when given the right project and direction.
The only flaw is that Basir threw in one too many subplots with Glover and Missick's storyline in third act. While it's a noble attempt to add another point of view, it doesn't help that Glover's character is very one note.
Nevertheless, everything from the acting and the subject matter are worth exploring and puts Basir on the map as a director to watch in the future.