day one was pretty hectic at sxsw, as my friends and i still found ourselves trying to settle into austin.
yesterday, i blogged a picture from a filmmaker’s luncheon that sxsw put on at robert rodriguez’s austin film studio. there were some great opening speeches by the heads of the festival and a few notable filmmakers shared some words. it was a great way to start of this year’s fest.
my favorite movie that i caught yesterday was THE RED CHAPEL (http://www.theredchapel.com). it really got into my head. i have a feeling it will be my favorite film of the fest.
we still have one more day before we show the taqwacores. although we have already premiered, im starting to have those pre-screening jitters again. sxsw has a very unique audience, and im a bit nervous of how they will receive the film.
hopefully the jitters won’t get in the way of enjoying another day of great films.
going to head back into the madness now.
after a painful morning flight leaving la, i’ve landed in austin. i’m staying with my old buddy from ele/mid/high school — my dear friend amie. amie picked me up from the airport and took me straight to one of his favorite restaurants, torchy’s tacos. their signature taco is the fried avocado. it was slammin.
im settlin in a bit, then ill be heading out to the sxsw film fest headquarters. i gotta drop off something special we made for our screenings here.
ill tell you more about that later, stay tuned…
hey guys — this is eyad, the director of “the taqwacores”. i’ll be taking over the festival blog for the film. my blogs will be short and sweet, and i’ll do my best to provide non-average material.
our next fest is sxsw, which starts this friday. sxsw is a fest that mashes up the following: music, interactive, and of course, films. we are excited and honored to be a part of this years’ fest.
that said, the festival is going to be less crazy for us. sadly, most of the actors, crew, bands, and scenestars won’t be making it out. although less in numbers, we still plan to make a nice splash out in Austin.
another awesome thing to mention is that the documentary “taqwacore : the birth of punk islam” is also playing at the festival. that film is directed by canadian filmmaker omar majeed. omar and I will actually be doing a panel on tuesday called “the two taqwacores”, discussing the making of both films.
so that’s it for now. stay tuned. lots to come!
It was my last day at Sundance, and the last screening of The Taqwacores. The bands had all left, most of cast had left, the punk rock house was clean again, and really just a condo again. I wore my bootleg praying man shirt, and walked with Dominic Rains, who wore his Jehangir green laced boots, and Bobby Naderi to the theatre.
I sat by myself in the second row in a packed theatre. Unlike the premier, I wasn’t surrounded by friends or the taqwacore family. It was just me, up close and personal with the big screen.
I didn’t think I’d get emotional, but I did. I choked up four times in the movie, tears constantly brimming my eyes. Unlike the first time that I watched the movie, this time I was actually watching invested in the storyline of the movie. The first time I watched the movie I was trying to see if my favorite lines, or scenes from the book had made the cut; I was trying to catch inside jokes and overwhelmed by all the real life references to the real life bands. At the premiere I was surrounded by the laughter and comfort of friends. This time I watched it, I watched it for simply what it was, the story of Muslim punk kids struggling to find their place.
The movie opened with Basim’s voice singing Shahria Law in the opening credit, and took us into a journey of life as a Taqwacore. When Jehangir recited the shahadah on the rooftop of the punk house in response to Umar’s challenge, it brought tears to my eyes, reminding me of how as a Muslim, I too have had my faith questioned by other Muslims. When Fasiq was on the rooftop talking about how the bands had called from a gas station and were on their way to the punk house, I too was reminded of that giddy anticipation feeling whenever a taqwacore band was near. When Jehangir gave his khuthbah at jummah prayer at the punk house with that gonzo kind of fear and love, I felt it, cuz at some point in my life, I had felt it too. When Rabeya took her stand at the end of the movie, I clapped because it was metaphorically a stand that as women we were constantly struggling to be heard on. The movie was gritty, punk and raw and full of energy mixed with somber complexity. It felt like what I had pictured in my head. It felt like what I feel as a Taqwacore in real life.
This time I watched it, I appreciated it for what it was – the complex story of what it meant to be an American Muslim in a fantastical tale that had somehow become wrapped up in reality.
It had been an emotional week for me and I had barely begun to process the taqwacore at Sundance experience. I find it harder and harder to explain to people what it means to be taqwacore the deeper I get in the scene and the more complex the created culture gets.
Watching the movie again reminded me of the guy that had the questions at the premeire screening. He said, The Taqwacores is a piece of art, and what kind of message are we putting out there to non-Muslims through this art?
It irritated me to no end because to me, this isn’t about art. This is a created community, a peoples with a common culture. And this isn’t a piece of propaganda to distribute to non-Muslims so they know what it feels like to be us. This is for the kids like us, the one that stumbles across the film or the book, and finally feels like they belong. This is a piece of comfort for all the misfit lost Taqwacore kids.
And maybe that’s why I was emotional. It was the end of Taqwacore at Sundance, and I was getting in a car the next day for the long drive back to reality. The comfort and solace I felt in my taqwacore peers was fading fast, all of us spread back thin across the country. Our time together is always fleeting.
Till the next chapter. We’ll see what The Taqwacores will bring.
Mashallah to the movie. Inshallah to the scene.
You know Eyad gave me the best piece of direction I had ever received,” I was sitting with Ian Tran who played Fasiq in the The Taqwacores movie. It was near the end of the week at Sundance and the house was just about empty. Ian and Volkan Eryaman, who plays Amazing Ayyub, were waiting for their ride to take them to the airport.
“Eyad told me to just ‘be ready for anything,’” Ian continued. “ And wow. It was so simple but it was the best piece of direction I had ever received. It meant that he trusted me.”
“What was this week like for you?” I asked.
“This week was incredible,” Ian said. “And honestly it goes back a couple of months to when we first found out. The whole build up to it. I’m just the kind of person that wants to share everything wonderful with the people I love.”
“The eighteen days we all spent together. I felt love for everybody. I was scared to watch the film but I was glad to see everybody again. We all shared a journey together. To see everybody here this week, all celebrating, just going nuts over the film, was incredible. I’ll be honest, the first time I saw the film, didn’t pay attention, didn’t absorb one bit of it. And I found out talking to other people that I wasn’t the only one. But when I saw it [the next day] in Salt Lake, I thought to myself ‘That is a great fucking film.’”
“What about you, Volkan?” I said, turning to him.
“It was fun,” he answered matter of fact-ly. “It was a lot to take in. I feel like such an amateur and there’s a lot to learn so much more to grow and so much more to do.”
“You mentioned yesterday about how you had discovered the Taqwacores and the feelings associated with it. Can you tell me what it was like to discover The Taqwacores?” I asked.
“It was like a confirmation,” Volkan answered. “The same things Mike went through, I went through. So for him to identify with that was really weird. He is an Irish Catholic convert, you know? But he was going through the same thing I was going through. As a kid, I was brought up with a Turkish background. I was not really forced into any religion. In fact, my mom actually is not Muslim. She’s too feminist to be Muslim. And my dad is but he doesn’t force it at all. It was always in a sense half assed with me… Half assed to the orthodox Muslims at least. But I guess Taqwacore made me understand that that was okay. It wasn’t ignorance that made that decision, it was that after understanding everything.’
“I’d be fasting for Ramadan and people would ask are you Sunni or Shia? And I’d say - I don’t give a shit about that. Stupid politics that happened 1500 years ago. It’s not what Islam is about. And they’re like “if you don’t pick Sunni or Shia, you’re not really Muslim.” What about Sufis? What about all these other sects to Islam? I’d question myself because everyone was questioning me…’
“So after reading this book and checking out these characters… I decided that if Amazing Ayyub can call himself a Muslim then I can call myself a Muslim. So I felt good about myself. It was like confirmation and conclusion. And after that I got to meet the real Taqwacore characters and that was like a huge confirmation that the book did something and meeting everyone else just totally solidified it.”
“What was it like meeting everyone else in the scene and letting them into your home?” I asked. I knew that Volkan’s house had turned into a surrogate taqwacore house in New York City, over the past year.
“It was like comfort. Like you have people like yourself. Whether it’s like people that are like-minded politically, sociologically, philosophically - like everything. And it gives you a sense of comfort.”