Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-08-31
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

MOVIES Director Mike Mosallam discusses queer Muslim film 'Breaking Fast'
by Andrew Davis
2021-01-31

This article shared 1933 times since Sun Jan 31, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


A warm romantic comedy that may seem simultaneously recognizable and unfamiliar to many viewers, Breaking Fast follows Mo (played by out actor Haaz Sleiman), a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak. When an All -American guy named Kal (portrayed by Michael Cassidy) offers to join him in his nightly iftars—-the traditional meals eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan—the two discover they have much in common.

Windy City Times talked with director Mike Mosallam about various aspects of the film, including a subject that's become a hot-button topic: straight actors portraying gay characters.

Windy City Times: Let me start with a couple more general questions. First, there are people who feel Hollywood is this bastion of liberalism. Do you agree with that school of thought?

Mike Mosallam: The thing I would say immediately is that Hollywood isn't any kind of monolith. But Hollywood is full of artists, and artists tend to be empathic people, and empathic people tend to be more progressive and liberal.

WCT: I know this is your feature-film debut, but you have directed numerous theater productions. What are the best and worst things about directing?

MM: The answer is the same—the actors. The actors are absolutely the reason I direct. I love working with them and getting in their minds and working things out with them. At the same time, every actor is different and approaches their craft differently. The hardest part is just speaking their language in a short amount of time.

WCT: Who are two or three actors you'd love to direct?

MM: As you mentioned, I come from a theater background so all the actors I think about tend to come from a theater space. I think about working with Celia Keenan-Bolger, a tremendous Tony Award-winning actress [for To Kill a Mockingbird]; Audra McDonald, who I revere so much; and—just because we're talking about a rom-com—it would be a dream to work with Julia Roberts. You've got to reach for the stars, Andrew! [Laughs]

WCT: Yes—aim high! So I understand Breaking Fast started as a short?

MM: It did. I wrote it in 2015 at the behest of a friend of mine. I didn't feel a story like this—about the intersectionality between religion and sexuality—had been told from my perspective, so he encouraged me to write it. When I thought about writing the story, it just really poured out of me. It got the attention of a producer of an HBO show called Looking; he came on and developed the short with me.

From there, we were fortunate enough to go to Cannes and some other notable film festivals. The audiences' reactions were always, "What happens next?" We hadn't really thought about what a feature version would look like so we put pen to paper—even though when I say that, I feel I'm really dating myself. Now, five-plus years later, here we are with Breaking Fast.

WCT: With Windy City Times being an LGBTQ media outlet, I feel that I'd be remiss if I didn't get into the topic of straight actors portraying gay roles, as Michael Cassidy (as far as I know) identifies as straight. What would you say to people who say that having gay actors lends more authenticity to gay roles?

MM: I would speak for Michael Cassidy, but he's very articulate when he talks about this and where he falls on the spectrum. He certainly identifies as straight and is in a long-term heterosexual relationship but, in terms of his ability to fall in love with someone of the same gender, I'll leave that to him to discuss.

For me, I think there's absolute validity in the desire for authentic and representative storytelling. I think it might be a little bit dangerous, however, to say gay actors should only play gay roles because then you could say that straight actors should only play straight roles. That's a bit of a slippery slope that is not really the point of what that movement is calling for. I would say that when it comes to our casting of this film, we were very, very intentional about the people we saw. We made sure that people were authentically Arab who were playing Arab roles. We were fortunate who have actors who come from Muslim [backgrounds] who understood the nuances of the world we live in—but it wasn't for me to sit in a casting session and ask someone who they took into a bedroom.

WCT: It could, indeed, launch a slippery slope. For example, would you have hired non-Muslim actors for the Muslim roles?

MM: Like sexual identity, religiosity is often very fluid. People of the Muslim faith are not a monolith, and it's different to speak of them than to, say, hire an Indian actor to play an Arab role or an Iranian actor to play a Pakistani role. That type of specific ethnicity is something we should be very conscious of and intentional about because the experiences are so different. Religiosity is different than that. What does playing a Muslim mean? Again, Islam and its followers are not a monolith, as evidenced by the vast intersectionality within the Muslim community across the globe.

WCT: And one of the things I appreciated about this film is that it shows the spectrum of Muslim thought. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the Muslim community about the movie?

MM: Yeah. I will just qualify, if I may, by saying the Muslim community is a collection of communities. I can speak directly to the various Muslims that I've had the pleasure of speaking with—all of whom can appreciate that there isn't a singular lens in this film and who can appreciate that there isn't a blanket version of Islam in it. There are Muslims who will love this film and there are Muslims who will hate it. But, ultimately, it's a story about humanity so I'd much rather reveal the individual human than I would a blanket community.

WCT: By the way, I told someone that, if I were an actor in this film, the easiest scenes would be the eating ones and the hardest ones would be the exercise classes.

MM: [Laughs] You want to know something about those exercise scenes? I went with two of the lead actors, Haaz and Amin [El Gamal, who plays Mo's best friend, Sam], to one of the classes so they'd get accustomed to what they'd have to go through while filming. It was a bonding experience—but it was hilarious to watch and to participate in. The class is based on a [dance cardio workout] routine called 305 Fitness. We were thrilled to support them and have their support in the making of this film.

WCT: And the fact that Veronica Cartwright is in this film!

MM: Oh—what a blessing, an honor and a treat! Can you imagine? She signed up for this role—one scene and a half-day of work. And the actors were fangirling over her! She was awesome. I remembered her from Alien, but I forgot that she was the mom in Flight of the Navigator as well.

WCT: And could you talk about Amin? He's amazing as Sam—although I do know some people who might find his character as over-the-top.

MM: I would say that anybody who cringes at Amin's role would have to reflect on their internalized homophobia. I think we can say that we know people who are as over-the-top—if not more over-the-top—than Amin's portrayal.

But I wish we could spend the entirety of this interview and this day talking about Amin—and it would not be enough time for me to express my love for him as a human being and for his talent. He's an incredible actor—and, believe it or not, he's nothing like his character—and such a wonderful soul. He's a delight to work with and I'm proud to call him my friend. He was so gentle and warm on set, and he was up to every challenge.

WCT: Lastly, what do you want viewers to take away from this film?

MM: I think, primarily, that the experience of being gay and/or being Arab and/or being Muslim is not a monolithic one; it runs the spectrum. But mostly, let this film serve as an ideal should and can look like for gay Arab Muslims and their families. The movie is about family, blood and chosen. Let us believe that we all deserve that kind of love in a family structure.

Breaking Fast is available On Demand.


This article shared 1933 times since Sun Jan 31, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Elton John, Leslie Jordan, Joel Kim Booster, Janelle Monae 2022-11-27
- Elton John gave Los Angeles concluded a three-show run on Nov. 20 back inside Dodger Stadium, taking a final bow as part of his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The concert ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Grammy nominees, Gabrielle Union, Trevor Noah, Brendan Fraser 2022-11-20
- Out Magazine compiled a list of some of the 2023 LGBTQA+ Grammy nominees. Among those on the list were Brandi Carlile (who earned another seven Grammy nominations this year, raising her career total to 25), Lady ...


Gay News

Hong Kong lesbian romance premieres at local film festival 2022-11-14
- Hong Kong Lesbian Romance Premieres At Film Festival by Vernon Hester �As part of the semi-annual Asian Pop-Up Cinema Film Festival, which ran from September 10 through November 6, The First Girl I Loved had its ...


Gay News

Filmmaker Elegance Bratton reflects on The Inspection 2022-11-14
- Gay writer and director Elegance Bratton has come a long way after growing up in New Jersey and being unhoused for 10 years. He eventually joined the Marine Corps, which led to his becoming the filmmaker ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Queer channel, gay actor dies, Jeopardy!, Luke and Chris Evans 2022-11-13
- Fuse Media—a Latino-owned, multiplatform entertainment company—announced that in partnership with OUTtv, it is expanding its suite of DEI FAST channels with the launch of the channel OUTtv Proud, per a press release. Set for a 2023 ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Gay racer, GALECA, Lena Waithe, 'Chicago,' LGBTQ+ films 2022-11-06
- Gay motorsports racer Zach Herrin made his long-awaited debut in a NASCAR-affiliated race in Phoenix, The Advocate noted. "I know I have a lot of eyes on me, and all I want to do is get out there and blur everything ...


Gay News

Actress Rebel Wilson gets engaged, announces birth of first child [UPDATE] 2022-11-05
- Actress Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) is engaged to girlfriend Ramona Agruma after dating for seven months, according to Page Six. ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Nathan Lane, gala, Beyonce, Kevin Aviance, Henry Cavill, Shania 2022-10-30
Video below - Nathan Lane is returning to Broadway this winter to star in the debut run of Pictures of Home, per The Hollywood Reporter. Based on the photo memoir by Larry Sultan of the same name and adapted ...


Gay News

WORLD World Cup, Ukraine president, purge survivors, Eddie Izzard 2022-10-30
- Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatar's ambassador to the UK, said LGBTQ+ couples visiting the country for the World Cup can "hold hands" but should be mindful of "public displays of affection," according to PinkNews. He told ...


Gay News

Sheryl Lee Ralph producing HIV/AIDS documentary 2022-10-29
- Recent Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph has signed on to produce Unexpected, a documentary short about women of color living with HIV in the South, Variety reported. Directed by Zeberiah Newman, the film will chronicle Masonia ...


Gay News

The Chicago International Film Fest's OutLook Series: Bigger, better, bolder in 2022 2022-10-24
- The Chicago International Film Festival has presented moving pictures from around the world to the public for 58 years after being founded in 1964 by openly gay graphic artist Michael Kutza. During Oct. 12=23, cinephiles were ...


Gay News

'Will & Grace' actor Leslie Jordan dies in car accident 2022-10-24
- Leslie Jordan—the openly gay actor who rose to fame on Will & Grace as the frenemy of Megan Mullally's Karen Walker and was immediately recognizable by his Southern accent—died in a single-car crash in Hollywood on ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'P-Valley,' Dan Levy, trans/non-binary panel, Christina Aguilera, Spirit Day 2022-10-23
Video below - Starz has renewed the show P-Valley (the network's most-watched series) for a third season, The Hollywood Reporter noted. The renewal for the series from creator/showrunner Katori Hall arrives more than two months after the sophomore season ...


Gay News

Chicago History Museum to host 'Supreme Models' screening Nov. 4 2022-10-19
- The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum will host the official Midwest screening of Supreme Models and an exclusive in-person celebration on Friday, Nov. 4, 5:30-9:30 p.m. at The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark ...


Gay News

Haven hosting 'Rocky Horror Picture Party' on Oct. 29-30 2022-10-18
- Haven is welcoming back its "Science Fiction/Double Feature: A Rocky Horror Picture Party"—an immersive Rocky Horror-themed Halloween party that brings to life in vivid technicolor the world of the cult-classic film. Hosted by Helena Handbasket, the ...


 




Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS





Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.