One of the most rewarding aspects of independent cinema is the light it casts on cultures (and subcultures and subcultures of subcultures) rarely served in the mainstream. Roles for women over 40 and the dearth of African-American projects in cinema are continually bemoaned and, with the exception of most of the Best Supporting Actress nods and the Tyler Perry ouvre, the complaints are legit. But gay Muslim punk flicks? When was the last time you…oh, wait a minute…
It is in that unique focus on a world few inhabit, much less have the ability to imagine, where The Taqwacores finds its strength. Dirty, grungy, devout, sexy, angry, rebellious, The Taqwacores wisely places the audience in the head of tenderly virginal Yusef, a Pakistani-American engineering student who moves into an off-campus flophouse where anarchistic energy and wildly forceful homosexuality are as pervasive and in-your-face as the dirty dishes in the sink and the pulsating music within the walls.
By day, the house living room is a virtual Mosque. But at night, punk shows threaten to shred the sheetrock. Eventually, this slamdance of cultures and ideologies force Yusef—and by proxy, us—to question concepts of faith and place. Occasionally the performances embarrass (the movie was shot on what most films spend on bottled water, so this isn’t a cast of Jolie-esque top-tier talent), but Taqwacores has its many merits. Some of the performances are cannily gentle and heartfelt, and the film can be roughly poetic and beautifully angry. Allah may be well-pleased.