Blerd Film Club: Naz & Maalik

Being Black can be hard, so can being Muslim, and being gay. If you're all three, well the world might not be too kind to you. Naz & Maalik tells the story of two young men who fall into all three categories. They just want to make some money, go to college and get a halal chicken. 

The film starts with Naz's younger sister finding a used condom in the trash. For some reason, she picks it up and takes it to him. She wants $25 to not tell, then starts asking who the girl was. Naz takes the condom with him and leaves, meeting up with Maalik. The two are planning to sell lottery tickets, attar oils (these are like scented oils they serve the same purpose as perfume and cologne) and whatever else. On their way to the store, they're stopped by an undercover cop who attempts to sell them a gun. Maalik jokes about buying it before they run away. The undercover cop follows them and reports them to the FBI.

While selling goods, white people are hesitant to buy from them, and Naz is paranoid that someone is following them. After prayer at the local Mosque Naz asks if Maalik feels bad about what they did the night before to which Maalik honestly responds no. The film doesn't make it immediately clear that the two had sex, but context clues give it away. As they continue their day Maalik pulls Naz into an alley for a make out session and wants to go further, but Naz refuses. Unbeknownst to them, this causes FBI agent Sarah Mickell to keep following them because she thinks they're terrorists.

Later in the park, Maalik attempts to hold Naz's hand only for him to yank his hand away and read from the Quran, specifically the 24th chapter and 2nd verse which states than an unmarried man and woman having sex should receive 100 lashes each. Later Naz enters a man's home to sell him some items and Maalik gets jealous before leaving when Naz doesn't answer his phone calls. Mickell questions Maalik who tells her they spent last night together. When Mickell catches up with Naz, he says they were at their friend Dan's house.

The two have a fight about Maalik telling the truth when he points out that Naz lied to the FBI, not their parents. They head to Dan's house to straighten out the story. Along the way, Naz's sister spots him and Maalik making out on the train. Naz asks Dan if he thinks being gay is wrong. Dan responds that it's haram (forbidden, equivalent to a sin in Christianity or Judaism). Naz lashes out that Sodom and Gomorrah was about rape not gays. Dan responds that Islam is simple and gays are Fasiq (I'm not sure how to explain this, it's someone who violates Islamic law and should not be trusted. Homosexuality is considered one of the Al-Kabirah or major sins). Before they can finish the conversation Mickell shows up to question Dan. Dan handles the questions exactly how you should, asking if there's a warrant and providing no information beyond confirming his name.

Naz chases down Mickell and tells the truth. Maalik catches up and she asks if they're gay. Maalik says Naz is his boyfriend and she's annoyed she wasted her time because "the FBI doesn't care if you're gay." The two still need to get a chicken and have a few more items to sell so they head on their way.

One of the things this film hammers home is that Naz is torn between his faith and sexual orientation unsure if the two can coexist. The first sign is when he feels wrong after prayer at the Mosque. Meanwhile, Maalik doesn't see why they shouldn't coexist. There's a scene where Maalik tells Dan they're gay and Dan just says he figured it out a long time ago. Dan is Maalik's cousin, so his family seems to have some different views. This is opposed to Naz's sister who tells him that he is no longer her brother and she will be informing their parents. Doesn't really matter your religion (or lack of) there are people who are just homophobic. Maalik comes from a family that sees homosexuality as a sin, but doesn't really care. Because of that he wants to show the world his faith, and his boyfriend. Naz on the other hand, wants to show neither by the end of the film. Those two elements of himself clash and can't coexist. In the course of this film he removes his Kufi and his relationship, because individually they provide him comfort but can't coexist in his mind.

Maalik chooses to tell his parents that he's gay, he knows he isn't going to change, doesn't want to and hiding it has just brought him more trouble. Naz hasn't decided, his sister has decided for him. If it was up to him, he'd remain in the closet and be a devout Muslim, which his parents will probably make him do. I can sit here and say Maalik chose right because there's no point in beating yourself up about being gay if the world is going to do it for you. But I can't say that, nobody can. Everyone's situation is different even if you share the same orientation, race, religion and so on, it's different.

I don't know if I would say the acting in the film is off the charts, but the performances were good. That might not make sense, but a lot of the film was improvised. It really helps to make the conversations meaningful. They have that same feeling as when you're young and don't know if you're dating or not. The confusion when being questioned by law enforcement, knowing that you're innocent, is all there. 

This a good film. It really captures that feeling of no longer being a child but not yet an adult. The time when things stop being so simple, and begin to become complicated. I've been mistaken before, and do know a family of whit Muslims. However, I don't think the writer/director was Muslim in this case. However, there seemed to be enough understanding that we got a brief and fleeting glimpse inside of Islam for those of us who don't practice it. For me the most interesting thing was the concept of sexual orientation contrasting religion, but making them coexist. There's millions of people, maybe billions, who practice various religions while being part of the LGBTQ+ wondering, can they coexist. Does God still love me, if my existence is a sin? If God makes no mistakes, why make me like this? Those questions get asked all the time. While the film toys with them, it never answers them. Naz & Maalik leaves us with more unanswered questions than answered. Perhaps that's a good thing.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Blerd Film Club: Naz & Maalik Blerd Film Club: Naz & Maalik Reviewed by Darrell S. on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 Rating: 5

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