Filmmaker Fawzia Mirza (Noor & Layla, Hidden Canyons, The Red Line) is set to debut the queer Muslim rom-com The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night written by and starring Kausar Mohammed (East of La Brea, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, Silicon Valley) at the 46th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which kicks off September 9 and runs through August 11.
The rom-com, which will screen in the TIFF Short Cuts category, follows a Pakistanti Muslim woman (Mohammed) who brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend (Vico Ortiz of Vida, Soldados de Zombies, Transparent) home for the first time on the family’s annual game night. The short explores themes of sisterhood, belonging, and breaking the rules of tradition.
“Having a queer, Muslim, Brown, rom-com world premiere at one of the most important film festivals in the world, is revolutionary,” said Mirza. “We need more space for the stories of our love and joy, made by, starring, and written by us. We are thrilled to share the short with TIFF audiences and hope they, like us, want to see a whole lot more of the Syed Family.”
“Bringing this story to the screen has been such a dream every step of the way,” added Mohammed. “This project is a showcase of queer, Muslim, BIPOC talent – from the South Asian artists featured on the soundtrack to our amazing cast and crew. I want people to see this and feel the magic of what happens when communities who haven’t been given a voice can finally tell their own stories.”
In addition to Mohammed and Ortiz, the pic features Meera Rohit Khumbhani (Uncorked, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Weird Loners), Pia Shah (The Shower, Room 104, Grass), and D’Lo Srijaerajah (Connecting, Looking, Sense8).
The news of The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night comes at a more than appropriate time. Riz Ahmed, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Ford Foundation and Pillars Fund recently released the report “Missing and Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies” which found that out of 200 popular films from the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand from 2017 to 2019, only six of them had a Muslim in a co-leading role, and only one of those was female. Of the nearly 9,000 speaking parts, fewer than two percent were Muslim; only one was a Muslim LGBTQ+ character.
“We hope our film is a powerful contribution in that direction,” said Mohammed. “If the Syed sisters can exist on-screen as their full selves – in all their love, laughter, and pains – then we are reclaiming our right for Muslims, Muslim women, Muslim queer women, to be seen as human, deserving of our own complexities.”
Check out the poster for The Syed Xmas Eve Game Night below.