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October 14, 2004

Movie Review: The 11th Hour


The movie’s been out for a while now, but I met the world-famous director of the movie, the one and only Sami Haque, at a wedding recently. I was so honored that he remembered me, now that he’s a big time superstar and all. Anyway, he requested me to do a review of the movie on my Xanga and I agreed.

Plot Synopsis: The movie opens with the main character, Ahmed (Abe Saleh), talking to a wayward youth at the local masjid (MCC). He tells the youth about his own deviant past, and the rest of the movie is told in flashback format, chronicling his life as a disillusioned Muslim college student who would like nothing more than to cast aside his Islam, only to find himself sharing an apartment with three other Ahmeds, and coming to a crossroads in his life wherein he must make a choice for the sake of his future.

This is Sami Haque’s first film and I must say that I was seriously impressed with this film.I had heard rave review from this film from others, and I have to say that it pretty much lived up to its hype. There are a few things that could have been done better—that’s to be expected, it’s a first film after all—but with a little more time, money, and effort, I think this dude can be a Muslim Francis Ford Coppola.

Directing/Producing: This was perhaps the aspect of the movie that impressed me the most: the authentic feel of a real movie that the director created from the beginning itself. Using a real 16 mm camera, Sami pulled off some incredible camera angles and shots that added some major artistic value to the movie. I particularly found the scene where Ahmed walks off the elevator and down the hall to meet his roommates for the first time to be an excellent use of the split screen: the long walk down the hall to an uncertain future is complemented by a split screen to suggest doubt and apprehension, allowing the viewer to truly feel what Ahmed is feeling during that walk. The authenticity of this film alone due to such camera angles, co-ordination with the soundtrack, and skillful integration of humor and education set this apart from the other Muslim films that have been made in the recent years. Particularly, the camera angles used in the “turning point” scene when Ahmed is reflecting is simply amazing—pure genius. Sami Haque has set the standard for which all other Muslim films must now follow.

Sound: The soundtrack was well chosen, especially the music that plays over the opening credits. However, while the Britney Spears “Toxic” song was hilarious since it follows the talawah gosht scene, I can’t stand Britney and thus I have to downgrade the sound a few points because of this. Also at times, it was hard to make out what the actors were saying. A suggestion is to place hidden mics on the actors in the future?

Acting: The acting was overall good. Abe Saleh carried the movie by playing the role of the main character extremely well. Hasan Shaikh (the fobby Ahmed… haha, the tucked in shirt without the belt… classic fob) was hilarious with his random comments (“This is ten times better than Febreeze”), the best one being, “Let him go… the talawah gosht has already worked its magic… by the way, what are you benching these days?” Ahmed Zahdan, playing the role of the fiery Arab shaykh, was hilarious. Fahad Siddiqui, with his cameo in the restaurant… was not… haha, just messing Fahad. At times though, the acting seemed strained and artificial (at times it was meant to be artificial, I understand). There were also times when some of the actors forgot/stammered their lines. This probably is more due to the inexperience of the actors more than anything else. For the first time in a major production for the majority of these actors, they overall did a good job of carrying the message of the film.

Plot: I like the main idea of the film, especially the fact that it builds off the main title and carries that until the end. The idea of a transformation is something that everyone can relate to. But, there were many scenes that kind of ran into each other and I felt lost as a viewer trying to follow some of the transitions. For example, the first Fajr scene seemed pretty random; more importantly, the main climax of the movie—the scene where Ahmed goes to his own funeral—kind of suddenly happens. There’s no dream or flashback mode to suggest what’s happening. I would have liked a better transition into that climactic scene.

Other: DePaul MSA… what a bunch of liberals. In all seriousness, I hope this sets the bar for future Muslim films. It’s time we produced such media to get our messages across to reach the people that need to hear and see it—both within and outside this Ummah. Let us hope that The 11th Hour is to Muslim films like what Citizen Kane was to American films. I hope Sami follows up on this brilliant first work with more powerful films in the future… and I want to be cast in the next film.

kr’s rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)


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One Comment
  1. Comments from the director himself:
    IGtStyle5 (12:43:41 AM): asalaamualikum, this is sami.  i read the review and enjoyed it.  your comments were from the heart and i commend you for it.  just to clarify, ahmed (abe) is having a dream then is visable a lot better on the dvd or if you download the film, the picture goes to blur to suggest this, plus when ahmed gets the phone call, the voice doesnt match his lips to give that dreamy look.  then he is speaking at a friends funeral, not his own, he’s friend had passed away doing ‘bad’ this is said in ahmeds’ speech at the ceremony.  but good job.  also- could you add my e-mail for questions/comments.  thanks, salaamIGtStyle5 (12:45:26 AM): also- hasan co-wrote this movie, he deserves credit as well.

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