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Mosquers is back on the prairies

Film festival serves up a diverse
feast of Muslim perspectives

A detail from the Mosquers Film Festival poster. The main event will take place March 12 at the Winspear Centre.

By Bailey Stefan

MOSQUERS FILM FESTIVAL is back with another year of celebrating the richness of the Muslim community at home and abroad. The short-film festival runs March 11-12 in and around Churchill Square.

Though it has been 15 years since the Mosquers fest was founded, this will be the 13th event, after two years shut down by COVID. For the first time, the festival is extending the festivities by offering an “Opening Credits” networking event for filmmakers and actors Friday, March 11. The following day, all the short films (no longer than 12 minutes) will be screened at the Winspear Centre. The festival ends with an after-party Saturday evening.

Khalil is a short film submission by local filmmakers, and it stars Mohamed Elkadri.

First held in 2007, the festival has screened a variety of films over their 13 events. Previous films have included 2019’s best picture winner, Salam, directed by Claire Fowler and starring Hana Chamoun. The film was also among the official selections at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Mohamed Elkadri, an Edmonton-based content creator and actor, says he is confident this year’s festival will be the best yet.

“It’s almost a bit surreal. There’s been all this build-up over two years and now the hype is real. We’re all really excited.”

Elkadri is one of the stars of Khalil, a short film by local filmmakers Zainab Azhar, Ijlal Amir, and Aaima Azhar about loss and grief as experienced by two young Muslim men.

The film is a celebration of male friendship and vulnerability, says Elkadri, who adds that he has long wanted to be an actor.

“For a kid like me, or a girl who wears the hijab, there’s not many options for us. The industry is kind of built against us. Then you have something like Mosquers and you think: Wow, someone is giving us a chance to express ourselves.”

Mosquers’s outreach co-ordinator Yonus Shaik says Mosquers represents a way to explore the various Muslim identities and experiences.

“Our goal is to educate everybody. When someone imagines a Muslim, I think they usually have a specific, stereotypical image in their mind. But then you look at these movies and the stuff that we’re doing, and you realize how much diversity there is in the Muslim community.”

The films that will be screened are from Alberta and Canada, and from across North America and around the world. Out of all the films submitted, only 10 are selected for screening. Six awards are given out, including best picture and best performance. Previous judges have included Zarqa Nawaz, who is best known as the creator of CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie. 

This year’s festival also includes a new award for “Best Quarantine Film,” to celebrate homemade movies shot over the pandemic.

Three films have made it to the finals for the new award: Pooj & Nad: The Webseries – Got Milk, by Nadya Naumann; Healthy Body, Broken Mind, by Omar Lucman and Wasif Haseeb; and The Wall, by Edmontonians Bel Olaleye and Washif Haque. All three films are available to stream at the Mosquers website.

“All the submissions are amazing to see,” Elkadri says. “You get to see so many different perspectives and journeys of different Muslims. Getting to see all the submissions from different people all over the world.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

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