Profile: Eyad Zahra - Director of Muslim punk scene film The Taqwacores
Film adapts novel by Michael Muhammad Knight
20 Safar 1403 AH (Islamic calendar) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Zahra’s family is Syrian. He was the first of his family born in America, his older brother was born in Syria. Growing up, his mother taught him about Islamic culture, which he now sees as a blessing and a curse. Zahra always had a strong interest in filmmaking and took classes at the undergraduate film program at Florida State University. He made two short films: 3azima (2003) and Distance from the Sun (2004).
‘We deal with some basic themes that you see in many films but look at these issues in a bizarre, off-beat way. That is what punk is to me. I was not a punk expert before this film, not that I am now, but I did my best to reflect the genre and the community and culture and that is what we are aiming for, a rough and tumble film.’
On the vernacular
‘The book had more leeway, the conversations were longer and if you go on the internet someone had made a glossary of all the terms used in the book. What I didn’t want to do was make a film where we have a scene that’s just for the white people in the audience explaining what’s going on. I tried to stay as close to how you would hear people speak should they be living in such a commune.’
On Hollywood movies
‘A lot of times these days people get pumped up about a Hollywood movie, wait for it for weeks and then they go see it, ejaculate and never talk about it again. Obviously a good film is opposite, you don’t know what you are going into, get floored by it and are thinking about it and talking about it with friends for weeks.’
When Knight wrote the novel, the Muslim punk scene did not really exist but since the novel came out the Muslim punk scene has grown. Many of the bands feature on the soundtrack.
The Taqwacores is on selected release from Fri 12 Aug.