SXSW Film '10 Preview — Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam is two really great documentaries for the price of one.

The first half of the movie deals with the burgeoning Islamic punk scene. As a motley crew of musicians, many of them inspired by Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2003 novel, The Taqwacores, travel together on a bus touring the American countryside, they attempt to make a name for themselves and their music beyond the immediate assumptions associated with religious rock.

The bands, including a Punjabi punk group out of Boston, an Arab heavy metal group from Chicago and an all-female punk rock group from Canada, offer a full spectrum of music that might not necessarily be associated with the Muslim culture.

As the group (including Knight, who is traveling with the musicians he helped inspire) breaks free from stereotypes with their provocative, sometimes inflammatory, lyrics, the film does an excellent job at offering up some background into the Taqwacore movement and its increasing growth in popularity.

As the movie switches into its second half, though, the setting changes from the tour bus to Pakistan, where members of The Kominas, the punk band from Massachusetts, have relocated.

When Knight travels to visit his old friends, the movie changes gears and moves into new, equally interesting territory — exploring the Islamic punk music’s effect and impact on non-American Muslims. Glimpses into the lives of the musicians and Knight himself help flesh out the movement and give a face to the music.

While the transition between the two different themes in the documentary is somewhat jarring and distracts a bit from the overall film, Taqwacore remains an excellent movie — offering an in-depth look at a fascinating culture. The movie is a must-see at SXSW — or anywhere you have the opportunity to watch it.

Taqwacore is actually one of two films to play at SXSW that was inspired by the Taqwacore music scene. The Taqwacores, an adaptation of Knight’s novel directed by Eyad Zahra, will also screen at the film festival.

Category: 24 Beats Per Second
Director: Omar Majeed
Showtimes: Sunday, March 14 at 7 PM at Alamo Ritz and Friday, March 19 at 12 PM at G-Tech

Inside Pulse — Movies will be on the ground at SXSW! For live coverage from the event, follow Robert Saucedo and Travis Leamons on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500 and @skipkassidy.

The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit