When discovering soiled tissue in the bathroom waste basket containing semen, Cala (Ashleigh Awusie) doesn’t necessary accept the explanation from her brother Naz (Kerwin Johnson Jr.) that their parents are having sex, and blackmails him to avoid telling their respective parents. So begins an ordinary day in Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant) as Maalik (Curtiss Cook Jr.) waits patiently on the steps of Naz’s house. As the two teenagers walk to a specialty convenience store to buy goods to hawk, they are propositioned by an undercover policeman to purchase a serial free weapon. Despite Maalik playfully haggling the buyer’s price down, a new FBI agent to the neighbourhood is informed and the two Black Muslim teenagers and are added to a watch list. As the call to prayers can be heard in the neighbourhood the boys are welcomed to the mosque by the Imam as well as any would-be undercover NYPD or FBI Agents. Following prayers, Naz explains to Maalik that he felt uncomfortable at prayers due to their get-together, the previous evening.
Moving around New York City, Naz & Maalik smile and flirt with one another as they discuss the planned preparations of a Chicken for a evening Halal meal, dreams of being pregnant, the interpretations of Allāh, the state of health of Americans, terrorism; juxtaposed with pitching fragrances, lottery tickets paired with saint cards for luck to passerby’s, and commuters. Despite Naz attempting to resist public affection from Maalik all whilst being trailed by an undercover agent, the closeted gay Muslim teens find a private area in an alleyway to express their affection for one another.
Perhaps due to Naz wearing his taqiyah, he has failed to match Maalik’s sales and one last pitch to a passerby results in a sale with a catch – a visit to the man’s apartment. Losing patience waiting downstairs for Naz’s return, Maalik continues on foot only to be stopped and questioned by trailing FBI agent Sarah Mickell (Annie Grier) who questions the two separately. The mini investigation results in mismatched stories as the two attempt to hold on to their secret. When the realisation sets in that it is illegal to lie to a federal agent, Naz & Maalik must contemplate declaring their sexuality to family and friends.
“A refreshing and relevant cinematic representation, “Naz & Maalik” is an impressive debut for filmmaker and actors.”
— Katie Walsh, The Playlist
“Original stories about underrepresented characters are hard to come by these days, and Naz & Maalik succeeds at not just finding a niche, but rising above the clever concept and delivering a powerful treatise on what it is to be young and disenfranchised in New York City.”
— Dan Gentile, Austin Chronicle
“This film, therefore, stands as quite unique. It might be the first to have two African-American, gay Muslims in love. It’s a powerful, first step in changing or widening perceptions about young Muslim men, and their place in this world.”
— The M Report
Did You Know?
In 2012 director Jay Dockendorf rented a room from a Muslim graduate student in Brooklyn, and their discussions about his teenage years as a closeted Muslim inspired the film Naz & Maalik. Review our Gay Themed Films Here
Read our interview with Jay Dockendorf
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Wolfe Video