EyeSteelFilm’s punk doc, following a group of young people who have melded their Muslim roots with punk rock music, began its theatrical journey at the beginning of this month at the Vancouver International Film Festival and just made a stop in Montreal during the Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Just before the doc opens in Toronto and hits the road to the Sheffield Doc/Fest, director Omar Majeed spoke with realscreen about the film’s evolution and the joys and challenges of filming in Pakistan.
EyeSteelFilm’s plans to make a film about punk rock Muslims first began hitting factual commissioners’ radar when filmmaker Omar Majeed pitched the doc at the Banff World Television Festival’s CTV Canadian Documart in 2007. Taqwacore came in second place, garnering $20,000 for the doc to get underway. At the beginning of 2008 the film gained more buzz during the MIPDOC Co-production Challenge where the jury created a special prize for the project because they didn’t want to see its creators walk away empty-handed.
The three-year journey of Taqwacore began with Majeed’s desire to make a film that channeled an alternative Muslim voice as an antidote to the religious extremists that had been the focus of the media since 9/11 and, what he calls, the ‘religious apologists’ that came out of the woodwork saying Islam was really all peace and love. ‘There are all different kinds of Muslims in the world,’ says Majeed. ‘People live their lives between those extremes. Why aren’t we hearing more of those kind of voices and why aren’t we hearing the voices of young Muslims?’
So Majeed went on the hunt for those voices and he was repeatedly pointed in the direction of a novel entitled The Taqwacores, a Muslim punk novel written by Michael Muhammad Knight which struck Majeed as a voice of a new Muslim generation. When he spoke to Knight and learned that a scene of musicians was forming out of the book’s themes, Taqwacore the documentary started to take form.
The doc’s subjects, the band The Kominas, eventually led Majeed back to Pakistan where he attended school during his teen years, and he was thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit the place of his youth. However, there were obstacles filming in a country in an energy crisis, where corruption is rife and the citizenry is not used to encountering cameras, making it sometimes difficult to capture natural moments.
‘In most ways it was incredible shooting there,’ says Majeed, who hopes to screen the film in Pakistan in the near future. ‘It was always important to me to show Pakistan in a different light than the way it’s come to media attention in the last little while. In that way I was very pleased in the way we captured it.’
Taqwacore opens for a limited run in Toronto October 16, in Montreal October 19 and hits Sheffield Doc/Fest November 5.