Youth and the disenchanted will find their voice through whichever means they find themselves attracted to. A documentary about a punk music movement within the Islamic faith certainly sounds compelling. Taqwacore opens here in Toronto at the Royal Theatre on Friday, October 16th. Director Omar Majeed will be in attendance on opening night for a Q&A.
When he was 17, Michael Knight left his mother's home in Rochester to study Islam at a Pakistani madrassa. It was his first act of rebellion - against his abusive, schizophrenic, white-supremacist father. Years later, burned out on the demands of religious dogma, Mike rebelled once more - by penning a Muslim Punk manifesto called The Taqwacores. His work of fiction struck a chord with young Muslims around the world and before long, real-life Taqwacore bands were creating a scene. This film follows Michael and his band of Muslim punks as they journey across the U.S. and Pakistan, transforming their worlds, their religion and themselves through the spirit of Taqwacore.
Montreal, October 1, 2009 - EyeSteelFilm is proud to announce their latest film Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam will open in Toronto on Friday, October 16 after its World Premiere on Saturday, October 3 at the Vancouver International Film Festival and a screening on Thursday, October 8 at Montreal's Festival du Nouveau Cinema.
The long awaited feature documentary directed by Omar Majeed is produced by the company behind such documentary hits as SPIT: Squeegee Punks in Traffic; Rip! A Remix Manifesto and Up The Yangtze. Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam follows author and founder of the Taqwacore movement - Michael Muhammad Knight, and bands like the Secret Trial Five and The Kominas on their first tour-pilgrimage across the U.S.A., as they challenge Muslims and non-Muslims alike with audacious anthems like "Sharia Law in the U.S.A." and "Mohammed was a Punk Rocker". Their spiritual odyssey leads them to Pakistan, and their rocky attempt to bring punk to the streets of Lahore.
"I am an Islamist! I am the anti-Christ!"?With their tongues firmly in cheek, Boston's The Kominas belt out their anthem for a new generation of young Muslims. And in this basement of a decrepit Chicago punkhouse, a mob of like-minded Islamic Misfits sneers along. It is the summer of 2007. The Pakistani punkers have arrived at the last stop of their U.S. tour and are celebrating with tourmates. There's Koroush, an Iranian kid from San Antonio who calls his band Vote Hezbollah; Sena, a Pakistani lesbian from Vancouver who fronts the all-girl Secret Trial Five; Marwan, whose Chicago-based group Al-Thawra pounds heavy metal beats into Arabic drones. And there, at the centre of it all, pumping his fists in the air and shouting Allah hu Akbar, is a white American convert named Michael Muhammad Knight.
The Islamic punk music scene would never have existed if it weren't for his 2003 novel, "The Taqwacores". Melding the Arabic word for god-consciousness with the edge of hardcore punk, Michael imagined a radical community of Muslim misfits: Mohawked Sufis, riot grrrls in burqas covered with band patches, skinhead Shi'as. These characters are entirely fictional. But the movement they inspired is very real. Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam follows Michael and his real-life kindred spirits on their first U.S. tour, where they incite a riot of young hijabi girls at the largest Muslim gathering in North America after Sena takes the stage. The film also travels with them to Pakistan, where members of the first Taqwacore band, The Kominas, try to bring punk to the streets of Lahore and Michael begins reconcile his fundamentalist past with the rebel he has now become. By stoking the revolution - against traditionalists in their own communities and against the clichés forced upon them from the outside - "we're giving the finger to both sides," says one Taqwacore.
Omar Majeed has worked as a director, writer and editor in the film and television industry for the past 10 years. In 2001, he received a Gemini Award for Best Editing for work he did on the ground-breaking Citytv series QueerTelevision, hosted by Irshad Manji. Omar has made several short films and documentaries, including Meet Me and Me, which premiered at the Images Film Festival in 1999, and Stare With Your Ears, a documentary on Word Jazz artist Ken Nordine whose beat-era spoken word pieces were an influence on artists from Tom Waits to DJ Food. After moving to Montreal in 2005, Omar worked with the National Film Board before landing at EyeSteelFilm. Working on a variety of projects, both documentary and fiction, he has now partnered with EyeSteelFilm on his most ambitious and passionate project to date, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam.
Taqwacore : The Birth of Punk Islam is produced by EyeSteelFilm with the participation of SODEC, the Quebec Film and Television Tax Credit, the Canadian Film and Video Production Tax Credit; produced and developed in association with SuperChannel, produced in association with SBS-TV Asutralia, with the assistance of the Canwest - Hot Docs Completion Fund; with the financial support of Quebec Arts Council and the Banff Film and Television Fund. Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam is distributed by Kinosmith and EyeSteelfilm.
EyeSteelFilm was founded through making films with the homeless community. Daniel Cross's gritty street trilogy (Danny Boy, 1993; The Street: a film with the homeless, 1996; SPIT: Squeegee Punks in Traffic, 2002) chronicled a generation of Canadians lost to social funding cuts, political apathy, alcoholism and drug use. These films provided a template for using engaged cinéma-vérité and interactivity for empowerment and change. With SPIT: Squeegee Punk in Traffic, the camera was given to a street kid named Roach, who at the time was living on the streets of Montreal. Over the three years it took to make the film, Roach transformed from drug-addicted street kid to filmmaker and has gone onto direct the documentaries Roachtrip, Punk le Vote!, and the upcoming Les Tickets. Our website HomelessNation.org continues to help those in the homeless community tell their own stories. EyeSteelFilm has branched out to make films on diverse, compelling topics, such as the multiple award-winning Rip! A Remix Manifesto, a look at remixing and copyright in the digital age; teens coming of age in a small Inuit village (Inuuvunga I am Inuk I am Alive); and a series of films chronicling modern life in China (Bone, 2005; Chairman George, 2006; Up the Yangtze, 2007). Up the Yangtze grossed close to $1.5 million in North American box office, one of the year's top documentary releases. The film also won dozens of awards, such as the Genie (Canada's Oscar) for Best Documentary. Over the years, EyeSteelFilm has collaborated with a wide range of partners including: The National Film Board of Canada, CBC, CTV, BBC, ZDF/ARTE, PBS and ITVS. In 2009, EyeSteelFilm was named as a Realscreen magazine "Global 100" company.