Naz & Maalik

Naz & Maalik
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Naz & Maalik

Una giornata nella vita di due adolescenti afro-americani, mussulmani e gay, che vivono a Brooklyn. Segretamente sono una coppia d’innamorati. Per tutti sono due grandi amici. Fanno qualche guadagno vendendo biglietti della lotteria, cartoline religiose e altri piccoli oggetti. All’inizio tutto sembra tranquillo. Passeggiano attraverso il parco, chiacchierano mentre vanno alla preghiera, si pongono domande filosofiche sulla vita… Ci sono però due complicazioni: devono impegnarsi per nascondere il fatto che vanno a letto insieme, soprattutto dopo lo strano incontro con una poliziotta sotto copertura, un’agente dell’FBI che ha il compito di sorvegliarli. Il loro pomeriggio spenserato si riempie di nuvole. Il tentativo di nascondere alla donna il sentimento che li unisce diventa sempre più labile. Ognuno dei due dice cose che non corrispondono riguardo la notte trascorsa insieme. Sembra che tutto stia crollando intorno a loro. A pagarne il prezzo è subito il loro legame, si sentono come sulla lama di un rasoio, in più si aggiunge la gelosia, ma soprattutto la paura di essere scoperti dalle loro famiglie o, anche peggio, dalle forze dell’ordine… Notevole opera prima, premiata all’OutFest di Los Angeles dalla Giuria; al Nashville Film Festival come miglior film a tematica e al Tribeca Film Istitute come miglior esordio, esplora con delicatezza e profondità diversi temi ancora attualissimi, come la sorveglianza del governo sui mussulmani, il rapporto tra i neri e la polizia, la sessualità e la paura generata dall’omofobia. Coraggiosa ma pienamente riuscita la scelta di far entrare tutto in una sola giornata: la suspance e l’interesse dello spettatore aumentano di momento in momento. Bravissimi i due giovani interpreti (un po meno la poliziotta). Peccato per un finale non troppo chiaro.

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Two first-generation African-American Muslim teens,close friends,classmates, partners + something more have their Friday + potentially their entire lives, ruined by surveillance as their ambiguous + secretive relationship sets off flags among the bureaucrats still fighting the War on Terror in the far-flung outpost of Bed-Stuy.

CRITICA:

It’s hard to be a minority within a minority, and even harder with the FBI breathing down your neck, but the two closeted black Muslim teens in Naz & Maalik navigate those treacherous waters with integrity, a pocket full of lottery tickets, and some transcendent acting.
From first-time director Jay Dockendorf, Naz & Maalik follows two young lovers as they traverse the streets of Brooklyn hawking trinkets to anyone who will listen. An undercover cop tries to sell them a gun and it earns them a spot on the radar of an overzealous FBI agent. For fear of being outed as gay, they lie to the officer and dig themselves into a dangerous hole.
The pair of young actors behind the titular roles (Curtiss Cook Jr. and Kerwin Johnson Jr.) pull off a skillful balancing act. They gracefully navigate the middle ground between best friendship and love, while exploring their religion and their bodies with equal passion. The complexity of the characters is extremely ambitious, but they nail every nuance.
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, austinchronicle.com)

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… The camera work echoes this point, following along with them, often at eye level, street level, bringing the audience along as another participant in their interactions, and also constantly locating them within the confines of their environment. This handheld camera work is juxtaposed with a few shots that evoke their being watched, including one overhead shot of them selling on the street that mimics the opening of Coppola’s surveillance classic “The Conversation.” And it must be said that the cinematography is beautiful, capturing Brooklyn in a saturated clarity.
The film manages to link together many moving story parts, fleeting moments that set off a domino effect of events, unknown to the main characters. While the FBI surveillance is an important aspect of their experience, and their day, setting many of the wheels in motion, their interactions with Agent Sarah Mickell (Annie Grier) aren’t quite as successful as the ones between the two of them, or with other characters. She’s awkward and seems seems completely misguided, out of her depth, randomly targeting them. That very well may be the point, but it doesn’t totally work within the story. Still, the way the loose ends get tied up, even with a dark and ambiguous ending, is impressive.
In addition to Dockendorf’s ability with storytelling and style, much praise must be paid to newcomers Cook and Johnson as the lead duo. They feel so at ease on screen, and vacillate between romance, best buds, and lover’s quarrels. They code switch between devout Muslims, urban teens, and gay youth, constantly measuring how to present their identities to the world and to each other. Johnson, particularly, is a soulful presence, with his struggle and anger bubbling constantly under the surface. A refreshing and relevant cinematic representation, “Naz & Maalik” is an impressive debut for filmmaker and actors. (Katie Walsh, indiewire.com)

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