Real punk rock---as well as the subcultures that sustain it---thrives off raw energy and edgy righteousness. So raise a knuckle-tattooed fist for Eyad Zahra's scrappy take on Michael Muhammad Knight's 2002 novel about an alt-Muslim underground scene: It understands the power of a well-placed middle finger. Detailing a then-fictitious youth movement of Allah-worshipping skaters and hipsters, Knight's cult coming-of-age parable inspired a real-life network of radicalized kids; you can see how teen viewers might experience a similar epiphany while watching square student Yufi (Naderi) get his faith turned upside down in a flat full of DIY Islamists. Never mind that the mohawked angel (Rains) and muscled-up devil (Mann) on Yufi's shoulders couldn't be more stereotypical. (In fact, the whole Maximumrocknroll--meets--The Breakfast Club vibe make first names superfluous; just call them the Skate Rat, the Riot Grrrl, the Gutterpunk, the Homosexual Goth and the Straight-Edger.) It's all about stickin' it to the imam!
So giggle or gasp at the shocking band names (Osama's Tunnel Diggers, Boxcutter Surprise), acknowledge the giddy thrill of seeing something as subversive as a burka covered in band patches, and nod your head knowingly at how The Taqwacores upends xenophobic fears of a brown planet. But whether anyone over the age of 16 will find the film's proud amateurism and choir-preaching personally enlightening, much less profound, is anyone's guess. Such an emphasis of in-your-face 'tude and sneering sloganeering over technical chops couldn't be more punk-appropriate, but love or loathe the go-your-own-way message, you still end up with a simplistic religious reclamation folded into the celluloid equivalent of Xeroxed zine.
Watch the trailer