MSPIFF: Wednesday 4/21: Turkey, Mexico, USA

Wednesday was Day 6 of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.  The sudden burst of 58F cold weather forced me indoors for another day of cinema.  It turns out that it was “music and Islam” day; read on for the scoop.

  * [Muezzin](, Turkey.  This documentary follows the fourth (?) annual Call to Prayer competition for muezzins all over Turkey.  Most of the film follows contenders from Istanbul, which has about 3000 mosques within the city (and perhaps suburbs?).  That's 15,000 Calls to Prayer per day.  It was fascinating, given the bumpy history of welcoming and banning music within various Islamic sects and cultures.  Turkey seems to be slowly moving from banning (or at least strong disapproval) to welcoming (sortof).  Some of us Norwegian- and Swedish-Americans have grandparents who strongly disapproved of playing cards, dancing, and/or drinking alcohol.  Much of Turkey's rural culture seems to have felt that way about music and is only now slowly changing.  Most of the muezzins interviewed had little or no formal training in music, much less family support for the job.  I was reminded a bit of a story long ago in The Onion newspaper about the world Bhuddist championships, with the contestants talking smack to each other: "I'm blissful!  You blissful?"  The muezzins we see are pretty competitive, but yet the competition is extremely friendly and, at times, more a musician master class than a contest.  **Highly recommended**.  Showing again on 4/29.
  * [Alamar](, Mexico.  This is a story of a Italian boy who visits his father, living and fishing on a tiny island in a barrier reef off the coast of Mexico.  [The seascape was as much a character as the boy, father, and grandfather in this quiet film.  It didn't fit the "music and Islam" theme, but it was good.  **Recommended**.  Showing again on 4/24.](
  * [The Taqwacores](, USA.  This had a lot of good buzz from the film fest staff, going by what I'd overhead over the last few days.  Jusef's a fairly studious engineering student in Buffalo, NY and rents a room in a Muslim student house near campus.  Everyone else is a punk: an outsider, a misfit, a rebel, an outcast, or all of the above.  Almost all have a serious punk, F*** the world attitude.  And they all take their faith seriously or very seriously.  Near the film's start we hear the first morning's Call to Prayer on an amp'ed electric guitar.  The men and women in the house have an uneasy relationship.  The pressure in the house slowly mounts as it comes time for taqwacore bands from the west coast to perform in wintry Buffalo.  (Taqwacore = rock bands with strong Muslim background and full-throttle punk attitude.)  The ending was a surprise at first, but on reflection ... I think it mirrors the director's intent to model the world of Islam, with all its diversity, in this fraternal house of school and faith and F*** you attitude and cultural insularity and the struggle of faith.  **Highly recommended**, but prepare to be offended; go see it on 4/25.