Movie review: The Taqwacores

Originally published in City Pages, April 14, 2010

The phenomenon of Islamic punk rock in America has recently inspired a number of bemused news articles and at least one documentary, so it’s only natural that a feature film would follow close behind. Eyad Zahra‘s debut tracks the goings-on in a Buffalo rental house populated by young Muslims/punk archetypes, each of whom has a different recipe for reconciling faith and lifestyle. That religious wrinkle colors every action and adds tension to familiar punk clashes like drunks vs. straight-edgers and activists vs. anarchists. The Taqwacores is at its best when it hews closest to a documentary style, capturing the squalor of flophouse parties and the stupid thrill of shocking the squares. In true punk fashion, the film largely eschews metaphor in favor of bold, noisy statements, leading to too many awkwardly on-the-nose observations reminiscent of early Spike Lee joints. (One character actually utters the sentence, “I’m too wrapped up in my mix-matching of disenfranchised subcultures, man.”) Fortunately, Zahra also shares Lee’s gift for cinematic catharsis, especially in an indelible late-film concert scene that encapsulates a world in which one man’s easy hook-up is another man’s unforgivable sin. —Ira Brooker

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