Review: ‘New Muslim Cool’

Pic chronicles an eventful period in the life, a former gangbanger/drug dealer turned rapper and devout Muslim.

Disarming docu “New Muslim Cool” chronicles an eventful period in the life of Puerto Rican-American Jason Perez, a former gangbanger/drug dealer turned rapper and devout Muslim. A fine illustration of the melting pot’s latest cultural flavors, as well as a helpful look past post-9/11 Islamic stereotypes, pubcast vet Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s pic should make fest rounds en route to smallscreen exposure.

To the lingering bafflement of his Spanish-speaking Catholic family in Philly, Perez ditched his bad-boy ways some years ago, changed his first name to Hamza and moved with a close-knit multiracial Muslim community to Pittsburgh. There, he married levelheaded Rafiah (after an online courtship), bringing together children from prior relationships, and set about doing good via outreach to at-risk youth on the street and county jail inmates in nondenominational faith-based programs. He also continued to perform and record music with brother Suliman as hip-hop act Mujahideen Team (aka M-Team). But hiccups arise when the FBI raids their mosque, then Hamza has his jail clearance revoked — both acts left unexplained, Patriot Act-style. Above-average lensing and original score are plusses.

New Muslim Cool

Documentary

Production

A Specific Pictures production, in association with Latino Public Broadcasting, POV and Center for Asian American Media. Produced by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor. Co-producers, Kauthar Umar, Hana Siddiqi. Directed, written by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), David Sarasti, Jon Shenk; editor, Kenji Yamamoto; music, Chris Strollo. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival (competing), May 4, 2009. English, Spanish dialogue. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Hamza Perez, Suliman Perez, Rafiah Daughtry, Gladys Perez, Carol Elkind, Sara Rose, Vic Walczak.
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