SXSW Film Review: Naz & Maalik

Growing up Muslim, gay, black, and proud

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.

Naz & Maalik

Visions, World Premiere
Wednesday, March 18, 5pm

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SXSW Film, SXSW, Naz & Maalik, ay Dockendorf, Curtiss Cook Jr., Kerwin Johnson Jr., SXSW Film 2015

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