Mooz-lum: Film Review

Sensitive performances smooth out the dramatic rough spots of this well-intentioned, racially-charged drama.

The clash of cultures isn't exactly groundbreaking but Qasim "Q" Basir's feature debut is told through the eyes of a young, black American Muslim, a perspective that has rarely been seen.


A young, American black Muslim is forced to come to terms with his identity in Mooz-lum, a heartfelt if stiffly executed first feature by Qasim Basir.

While the scripting can get a little strident in places and an over-reliance on flashbacks has a distancing effect, Basir’s good intentions and his committed cast nevertheless lend this 9/11-era drama a real poignancy.   

Distributed through AMC Independent, the limited release is currently playing in 10 cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Detroit — it was filmed in Ann Arbor, home to a large Muslim community.

Effectively anchoring the film is Evan Ross in the role of Tariq Mahdi, a college freshman who is entering into the secular world after a strict Muslim education at the insistence of his stern, headstrong father, Hassan (Roger Guenveur Smith).

But his determination to define himself on his own terms is ultimately reshaped by the galvanizing aftermath of 9/11.

Obviously taking a cue from events in the filmmaker’s own life, the portrayal rings mainly true even though some of the characters and dramatic elements would have benefited from a subtler, more shaded approach.

Credit the cast for tempering those blunter edges, especially Ross (Diana Ross’ son) and Nia Long, who does particularly affecting work has his compassionate mother, Safiyah.

Danny Glover also appears in the role of the school’s weak-willed dean, who’s determined to do the right thing where the school’s wealthy benefactors are concerned.

Although the clash of cultures isn’t exactly unexplored territory where independent films are concerned, Mooz-lum deserves credit for providing a POV that we really haven’t seen before.

Opened: Friday, Feb. 11 (AMC Independent)
Production companies: Peace Films
Cast: Evan Ross, Nia Long, Danny Glover, Roger Guenveur Smith
Director-screenwriter: Qasim “Q” Basir
Executive producers: Danny Rodriguez, Dana Wright
Producer: Dana Offenbach
Director of photography: Ian Dudley
Production designer: Joey Ostrander
Music: Misha Segal
Costume designer: Amy Julia Cheyfitz
Editor: Christopher Scott Cherot
Rating: PG-13, 95 minutes