Published Oct 19, 2009If films like SLC Punk and Hard Core Logo offered fictionalized representations of the modern failings of the most juvenile interpretations of punk ideology, Taqwacore succeeds in illustrating that same failure in much more tragically real characters, adding the malfunction of faith to an already heavy mix.
Documenting an extremely new and nascent Islamist punk rock movement, Omar Majeed's documentary follows Michael Muhammad Knight, author of fictional Islamist punk novel The Taqwacores, as his book inspires a hyper-underground movement of religious rebellion set to a punk rock soundtrack.
Knight, a white American who converted to Islam in his teens in an effort to escape the looming figure of a racist felon father, is a fascinating and deeply conflicted central character, and the musicians that rally around his idea of a Muslim punk rock movement are equally flawed and fascinating.
Following the motley crew as they tour America in a converted school bus (replete with an American flag for a mud mat), the film subtly (and without editorializing) exposes the profound contradictions and hypocrisy of organized religion and the angry, adolescent emotional response it elicits that punk speaks to so perfectly.
It's not that Majeed is intent on painting Islam in an unsatisfactory light — every subject here is treated with respect — but the inherent religious problems expressed by the film's subjects aren't fixable or limited to the world of Islam.
For them, the punk rock escape hatch of alcoholism and drug abuse only makes things worse, and Taqwacore provides the thoroughly sad, uncompromising and, appropriately, very punk document of a very conflicted, utterly unique spiral into new plains of confusion. (Kinosmith)