Naz & Maalik chronicles the lives of two gay muslim teenagers living in a post-9/11 New York, doing their best to balance a relationship that would be frowned upon by their social and cultural peers, and schemes to make a little money on the side.
The boys, played by Curtiss Cook Jr and Kenwin Johnson Jr., run afoul of an FB agent, played by Annie Grier, who seems intent upon uncovering some deeper, more sinister purpose in their actions.
Starring, amongst others, an FBI agent who seems to be in serious digestive distress and a suicidal chicken, it’s one of the slightly odder films on offer at Iris 2015, but by no means the worst, and it would be very ungenerous to say that there wasn’t potential here – the accomplished cinematography (with some beautiful shots of New York), ambitious plot and nuanced acting, it’s obvious that the cast and crew had a grand vision that perhaps at this point in their careers wasn’t attainable.
The most noticeable issues in this film, beyond the narrative, is the quality of the sound throughout, to the point where the viewer occaisonally struggles to hear the dialogue of the two protagonists over the ambient street noise. Not that it seems to matter very much, as the dialogue is stilted and seems to stumble over itself on occasion.
This is a very ambitious film by a fairly new filmmaker, and it seems that ambition perhaps outstrips ability:The story meanders quite considerably; it could easily have been trimmed down to a tighter, learner 20-minute version of itself. The third act, for example, seems almost entirely unnecessarily tacked-on.
In fact, this film seems to be made up of three almost-separate ideas: the adventures of the two boys and their attempts to keep their relationship a secret from their families; the FBI agent’s racial profiling and subsequent intent to chase down a threat that doesn’t exist; and The Thing With The Chicken. It’s almost like there were three separate episodes that were written perhaps as a TV pilot that were then clumsily mashed into one movie, or three separate creative voices who each wanted to base the film around their idea without really considering the cohesivness of the narrative as a whole.
A valiant attempt, but not quite realised.
Reviewer: Scott Flashheart Elliott
In short: a film festival in Cardiff where the world’s most promising up-and-coming queer film-makers compete for up to £30,000 towards their next short film.
But it’s not just that, as the Festival’s tagline “Watch movies. Party nightly. Repeat.” hints:
It’s a chance to network and rub shoulders (or possibly other body parts) with interesting, talented people in the film biz.
It’s a chance to watch funny, clever, heartwarming, and heart-breaking queer cinema from around the world amongst like-minded individuals.
It’s a chance to drink at night and watch movies all day.
(Copyright Naik Media)
More than all of these things, it’s a chance to be a part of something special. Not for nothing does the welcome pack given to everyone on the first day bear the words ‘welcome to the family’: That’s exactly what Iris is. From the moment one arrives at the festival, to be greeted by festival Directors Berwyn and Grant, or one of their small but incredibly hard-working and capeable team, the sense of inclusion and the personal touch is apparent in everything. This isn’t a large, brassy corporate event like some of the more well-known film festivals can be, but instead a home-grown event that’s managed to hold on to that welcoming vibe while growing in membership and stature every year.
Maybe that’s the real prize at Iris: the feeling of being part of a large and constantly-growing creative family, being able to share in conversations and hangovers in equal measure and throughout every minute of the festival, the underlying feeling of love and care that goes into making those five days in Cardiff some of the best of the year.
Or maybe it’s the £30,000. Hard to tell, really. Come to Cardiff in October 2016 and find out for yourself.
Find out more at http://Irisprize.org