Naz & Maalik
Kerwin Johnson Jr., Curtiss Cook Jr., Annie Grier, Bradley Brian Custer
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
“…harkens back to indie films of the early nineties with its gentle pace and guerrilla spirit.”
Naz (Kerwin Johnson Jr.) and Maalik (Curtiss Cook Jr.) are a couple of teenage kids with their sights set on college. They spend their days at school and their afternoons fund-raising on the streets of Brooklyn, selling lotto tickets, trading cards, and anything that could earn them a little extra cash. Being black in Brooklyn doesn’t draw attention, but being Muslim does, most notably from the new FBI officer on the block, who starts trailing the young men. So starts this gentle coming-of-age tale which harkens back to indie films of the early nineties with its gentle pace and guerrilla spirit. It’s coupled to a stripped down, trip-hop soundtrack that makes an evocative pairing with the unpretentious urban landscapes in which the story unfolds. This oozes laidback cool as the film goes about its business, ticking off social issues without making them the focus of the narrative.
Stepping up the action is racial profiling by the FBI, a line of enquiry which exposes a secret that Naz and Maalik had hoped to keep to themselves. In fact, the film is in no hurry to confirm their relationship with the audience either, to its credit. This isn’t the kind of film that screams GAY from the outset, and speaks to a new generation of filmmakers for whom sexuality is just part of the story, and not the story.
Naz & Maalik is the first feature from writer/director, Jay Dockendorf, whose film, as charming as it is, rides on the charisma of his leads. They’re very appealing company, and they help us through the more abstract, meandering moments of Dockendorf’s story. Add a sidebar of New York crazies who inhabit the margins, streets, and subways, and you’ve got a compelling day in the life of Brooklyn.