Premiere night for Mosquers
The first celebration in three years for the film festival
brought the stars out at the Winspear Centre
By Brett Holden
IT WAS Lights! Camera! Action! for the first Mosquers Film Festival since 2019, and the stars were out to celebrate. This year’s festivities celebrated 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to the two years lost because of COVID-19.
Cameras flashed, as filmmakers and performers hit the red carpet and made their way into the Winspear Centre theatre Saturday, March 6.
“It’s awesome to have a festival like this in Canada,” said Wasif Haseeb, the cinematographer, producer, and editor of the film Healthy Body, Broken Mind.
“Seeing it live, in person, and the impact that it is having in our community, not only in Edmonton but Muslims all around the world, I feel like there is a huge, huge thing happening on a global scale.”
Eight of the 100-plus submitted films were screened Saturday night, with three of the finalists being from Canada – including two from Edmonton.
“I don’t know anywhere else in the world doing something like this just for Muslims and Arabs,” says Kareem Ghaleb, star of the U.S. submission, Baladi. “Hopefully, the right people saw it and there will be more diversity for us.”
The People’s Choice award-winner, Baladi, is the story of a Turkish immigrant – based on producer-director Jenna Bosco‘s father – forming an unlikely friendship with a New York widow.
“We are just human beings,” Bosco says. “Our lives are full and rich, and nuanced, and diverse. We deserve to have that represented on the main stage and in the media.”
The entertainment didn’t stop with the silver screen. Two musical guests performed, as well: U.S. pop-soul group Fajjir+Ali started the show with a melodic performance, and Chicago-based rapper, Kayem got the audience members out of their seats.
a lot of our stories’
“I consider myself, first and foremost, a storyteller,” Kayem says. “It’s just different mediums in the same thing.”
The ability to relate to the films, music and presenters is what Kayem says is one of the key aspects of the festival – as well as seeing Muslims portrayed just as ordinary citizens, rather than as ethnic stereotypes.
“We’re telling a lot of our stories. Stories on a spectrum; we’re not a monolith. There is the whole trauma-porn aspect, and that is real for people going through devastating stuff, but there is also everyday life as a Muslim.
“We have fun, we joke, we do our thing, and these films told those stories.”
The short films at Mosquers covered a variety of topics, ranging from a high school student supporting his LGBTQIA+ friend in Ubuntu to the devastating impact suicide can have on Muslim family members in The Fall, to the true story of Turkish University students turning their backs on racism and respecting the privacy of a female Muslim classmate in The Final Exam.
Six awards were handed out at the end of the night, including best picture, best technical quality, best performance, best local picture, People’s Choice, and the brand new Preview award, for the best picture filmed during quarantine, won by Wasif Haseeb’s Healthy Body, Broken Mind.
Haseeb made the five-minute short with fellow Winnipeg moviemaker Omar Lucman to submit to a film festival in their hometown in July.
“Our film was basically shot during the peak of quarantine,” Haseeb said. “It was in one house. Two actors, myself behind the camera, no crew or anything, as minimal set up as possible.
“When I found out about this film festival a few months later, looking for films done during the quarantine. We tried to embody themes of the quarantine; the film, production-wise, was very COVID specific, so that’s what we were going for.”
The winners of the other awards are:
¤ The Right for Best in Technical Quality
¤ Taj Aldeeb for Best Performance
¤ Khalil for Best Local Picture
¤ Baladi for People’s Choice Award
¤ Ubuntu for Best Picture
You can learn more about Mosquers through their podcast, The Halal Gap. They also run Makerspace, a facility for local Muslim filmmakers, and The Vibe, a series of events organized around topics of interest in Edmonton’s Muslim community.