In New Muslim Cool, filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor presents a look at the life of Puerto Rican American Hamza Perez over a period of a few years in Pittsburgh as he and other members of the community work to establish a Muslim community.
Born Jason, Hamza used to be a drug dealer in Massachusetts before he found Islam and turned his life around at the age of 21. Although only 83 minutes, New Muslim Cool covers many aspects of Hamza’s life: how he fits in with his (mostly) non-Muslim relatives, his marriage, his work as an activist, his hip hop career, even how he and the rest of the Muslim community deal with an uncalled for FBI raid on their mosque.
Taylor and editor Kenji Yamamoto worked well to make the film as cohesive as possible. Despite the fact that one is watching scenes that have been filmed over a few years, the documentary has an underlying theme. It’s about Hamza maturing, becoming a better person, understanding who he is, and embracing the responsibilities he feels are incumbent on him.
The great thing about New Muslim Cool is that you don’t have to be a Muslim or a convert to appreciate this film. The message given is universal and Hamza is entirely relatable. Check it out if you can. There’s one more screening in San Francisco at the Sundance Kabuki Theater on May 4 and other screenings in other parts of the country. Also, New Muslim Cool has the distinction of airing on June 23 on PBS to start off the new season of POV.