Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Naz and Maalik": FBI and NYPD mistakenly track two young gay Muslim men in Brooklyn as possible terrorists

On Sunday afternoon, Aug. 30, “Reel Affirmations” presented a quirky dramedy by Jay Dockendorf, “Naz and Maalik”.

The film presents two young African Muslim young men (played by Kerwin Johnson, Jr. and Curtis Cook, Jr.) who, trying to hide their interest in one another and in men, attract the mistaken attention of the FBI and perhaps NYPD as potential terrorists.  The men are fully observant, doing prayers and attending a mosque.

The men are street entrepreneurs, working Bed-Stuy (filmed on location there, in Brooklyn NY), selling lottery tickets, playing cards, and incense.  They are pretty self-confident about approaching people to sell them stuff. One day, an undercover male cop (Brian Bradley Custer) riding around with a female FBI agent (Annie Grier) approaches the men and tries to sell one of them an illegal handgun.  One of the boys actually tries to negotiate the price down, Trump style, before saying no.  Nevertheless, the FBI agent keeps pestering one of them (“it’s a crime to lie to an FBI agent” – and I don’t think it is).

The film (a crisp 86 minutes) tends to meander a bit until a climax, involving a bizarre ritual with a live chicken that goes wrong and causes an auto wreck. 

I found the female agent’s behavior following the kids rather preposterous, and her prodding unconvincing and manipulative. And the male cop is clearing trying to set up entrapment with the weapon sale.  I’m hardly convinced that the government is really doing this. The film certainly makes a point about government’s overstepping boundaries in the war on Terror, as well as about both racial and religious profiling by police, a huge controversy today (Ferguson,, Baltmore, Staten Island, Cincinnati, Utah, etc).

The on location photography is gritty, and I may have recognized at least one person I know from NYC’s music community acting as an extra in one scene.

The official site is here. The film played at SXSW and has been bought by Wolfe.

The title of the film is sometimes spelled as “Naz & Maalik”.

The showing was preceded by the eight-minute short “An Afternoon” (“En eftermiddag”, 8 minutes, Denmark, by Soren Green.  A teenager Mathias (Ulrik Wenfeldt-Schmidt) invites a middle-school-aged looking kid Frederik (Jacob Ottenstein) up to this room (or maybe the kid invites himself). They engage in chat with Skype on a computer with young women, who can see from the other side that Mathias’s motives might be questionable.  The “AOC” (the film in the previous review) in Denmark is 15 according to Wikipedia, so this might barely be legal, or it might not be. 

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