LOS ANGELES CA - THE SYED FAMILY XMAS EVE GAME NIGHT will have its U.S. premiere at the 57th edition of the Chicago International Film Festival running October 13 - 24, 2021. This comes on the heels of the film's highly successful world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this past month.
Screening in the Shorts Program (Shorts 6: Side-Splitting Comedy), this "buoyant and big-hearted comedy" (TIFF) follows a Pakistanti Muslim woman (Kausar Mohammed) who brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend (Vico Ortiz) 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.
"Bringing a queer, Muslim, Brown, rom-com back home to Chicago having just been with it in Toronto, is a dream, " said director, CIFF alum and long-time Chicago resident, Fawzia Mirza. "We need to center stories of our love and joy, made by, starring, written, and directed, by us. Chicago is where I got my start as a filmmaker and I'm hoping Chicago, fall in love (like we have) with the entire Syed Family.
The cast includes Vico Ortiz (SOLDADOS DE ZOMBIES, VIDA, TRANSPARENT, THESE THEMS), 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).
"Bringing this story to the screen has been such a dream every step of the way," explained writer/actor/producer Kausar 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."
The film comes at a time when the lack of Muslim representation in movies is making headlines. A landmark report from USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative - Missing and Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies - 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.
"Being confronted with the hard stats themselves was in a way shocking to see how bad it was," actor Riz Ahmed told NPR. Ahmed is joining forces with other Muslim artists - including Mahershala Ali, Ramy Youssef, Sana Amanat, Karen Amer, among others - to increase Muslim representation and stop sterotypical depictions in cinema.
An epidemic of invisibility" is the finding of another recent Annenberg study about the lack of Latinx representation in popular movies. THE SYED FAMILY'S non-binary Puerto Rican character breaks with the unrealistic and often harmful tropes the study says are more common.
"We hope our film is a powerful contribution to visibility and breaking stereotypes," said Mohammed. "If the Syed family can exist on-screen as their full selves - in all their love, laughter, and pains - then we are reclaiming our right as Muslims, Latinx, women, queer folks, to be seen as human, deserving of our own complexities."
Learn more at www.SyedFamilyMovie.com .