Filmmakers focus on Muslim college experience
By Kellie Bramlet
Milwaukee should get ready for its close-up — shooting for "Generation Jazba," an independent film about Muslim college students in Milwaukee, is tentatively scheduled to begin in May of 2007.
Writer and director Brooke Maroldi and producer Allyson Bahr said they plan to show the movie at prominent independent film festivals including Tribeca, Sundance and Toronto, among others. In order to help reach this goal they are a holding a fundraiser tonight, where promotional material for the movie will also be shot, according to a press release.
Based on a story by Qudsia Sethi, the film follows the lives of a group of Muslim college students living in Milwaukee as they struggle to find their place in a world between their Muslim roots and American society.
Their goal is "to portray a minority in a way that's realistic and fair and give people a lot to think about," Maroldi said.
Maroldi said they chose Milwaukee for the backdrop of this story for a number of reasons.
"We're here. We work here," she said.
Maroldi and Bahr said that through their film, they hope to present a new image of Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee has been kind of badly portrayed in the past. It's almost embarrassing," Maroldi said. "I think this is going to show a view of Milwaukee that a lot of people across the country have never seen."
Bahr said that the movie will give Milwaukee a "sexy and sophisticated look," because it shows college students gathering against a backdrop of nightclubs, coffee shops and the lakefront.
"We just want to make art in Milwaukee. We love the city," she said.
Both Bahr and Maroldi said the city plays a prominent role in the film, almost like a character.
"With such a small Muslim population here, the movie really is relevant to Milwaukee," Bahr said.
"In the city there's so much segregation," Maroldi said. "We're trying to show that (Muslims) are pretty much like everybody else."
Hammam Hasan, senior in the College of Engineering and leader of Marquette's Muslim Student Association, said he can definitely relate to the characters in this film after hearing a plot synopsis and some details concerning the movie.
Hasan was raised in Philadelphia, but moved to Palestine with his family when he was 8 years old because his parents wanted him to learn about his culture and roots, he said. Hasan said he moved to Milwaukee in 2001 to avoid violence and find better opportunities, attending high school and eventually Marquette.
"I hope that (the movie) justly describes the situation," he said. Hassan also said he hopes that the film focuses on the positive and avoids stereotypes, because the news media often fail to do so.
"There are a lot of things about Middle Eastern tradition that people in the U.S. do not understand," he said. "Having to put up with both ends of the world is not easy at all."
Although the film is about Muslim students, Bohr said its themes are really universal and that college students everywhere should be able to relate to it.
The movie is about "how you carve yourself into this world and become a person," she said. "And I think that all college students can relate to that."
Currently, Maroldi and Bahr, along with their newly-formed production company Jazba Productions, are working on fundraising for the film. They said they hope to raise $50,000 before asking for funds from investors and then moving on to the pre-production phase, which is tentatively scheduled for February. The fundraiser will be held this evening at the Hi-Hat Garage, 1709 N. Arlington Place, at 5 p.m. and admission is $7.
This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on Thursday, March 23, 2006.