Author’s note: The following is a spoiler-free review. Spoilers ruin the fun, so I got you!
Back in February, I interviewed director, writer, and producer Amatullah’Muhyi Ali on representation, “Hamilton: the Musical,” and her musical film “Undefined.” On Monday, I had the privilege of attending a private screening of the film along with my colleague and friend Marwa Adina, who hosted the event and moderated the discussion panel. Tickets were sold out at the premiere and the auditorium was full! Who says minorities can’t make or be in movies that draw crowds and sell out?
“Undefined” is a short film that tells the story of Amina Rasul who is struggling and juggling her Black and Muslim identities. Her grandmother and two sisters, Aya and Azin encourage her to reclaim her identity, represent her religion and culture with confidence, and redefine who she is. The film also challenges the perspective of how Muslim women are portrayed and challenges fearing the unknown.
At first, when I learned that the film was a musical, I was worried that the music and dance numbers would overpower it and be ill-fitting. However, they were appropriate to the story’s theme and tone. I was blown away by the show-stopping performances of the fresh-faced talent. I was toe-tapping, jumping in my seat, and feeling the performance like Beyoncé wearing 3D glasses at the Grammy’s!
— ahlam ✊🏽🖤 | #StopAsianHate (@SayTheNameAhlam) August 29, 2017
Another concerned I had at first was the length of the film. “Undefined” is approximately 26 minutes long, which I thought was going to fly by fast! However, this film got me living in the moment that the longevity was like watching any other film and had stayed true to its story.
There were no stereotypes, cliches, or damsels-in-distress who needed a man’s help. In fact, there were only about three male characters and only had one scene with a few lines and a musical number. The majority of the cast were black women who (whether or not they were Muslim in real life) beautifully portrayed what it means to be a Black Muslim woman today.
One of my favorite scenes was when Amina was at the mosque to pray Janazah. She looks around the sisters’ prayer room and they are all smiling and whispering to one another. This confuses and frustrates her because there’s nothing happy about someone’s death, until her sisters remind her that mourning for someone can mean celebrating his or her life. Amina takes her feelings of grief and is put into a musical number where everyone around her is frozen and she is dancing her feelings around the room. I liked that scene because it reminded me of the music video for Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair.” In one scene, everyone around Solange sits still while she dances around. Amina is taking a moment and channels her feelings in an artistic manner.
Overall, I would give this film a thumbs up! Am I allowed to give two or is that not how movie reviews work? Whatever, I’ll give it two but don’t tell the movie review police! This film exceeded my expectations and there wasn’t a moment where I rested my face from smiling so much. Plus, this film paves the way for positive representation and future filmmakers and actors of color.
When asked what’s next, Ali is hoping to take her debut film to the next level by selling it to film festivals. Who knows? Maybe she’ll get nominated at next year’s Academy Awards!