We all love a good romantic comedy, right? You know those hilariously relatable ones with the universal storyline: Gorgeous girl-loves-undeserving guy, they marry, he cheats, then, naturally, it all falls apart… Can the girl save her marriage with her beloved-albeit-trifling husband??
Or will she emerge after heartbreak more empowered with a new lease on life and a new Prince Charming?? We love to kick back with our favorite bottle of wine or comfort food watching our RomCom faves over and over, rooting for the girl who often reminds us of our own selves when love goes south (if even temporarily)!
She always wins though, and no matter how many times you watch these classic movies, they never get old.
Google “Romantic Comedies” and the top ten results reveal some of the classics: When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, The Proposal, Love Actually, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Bridget Jones Diary, 50 First Dates, and Ten Things I Hate About You.
And of course we have our beloved Black RomComs: Boomerang, Love Jones, Brown Sugar, Poetic Justice, The Best Man, Love & Basketball, Think Like A Man, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and the 1974 classic, Claudine.
But when was the last time a beautiful heroine that got her life together, ditching her zero for a hero, was an orthodox Muslim Black American? I’ll answer that, NEVER.
Let Hollywood tell it, there is no natural intersection between the romantic comedy genre and Islam. And even if there is, they’d have you believe that there’s no audience for such films. But director Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar is here to shatter that misconception with her hilariously witty new indie movie Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage.
Filmed in Los Angeles over a two week period in 2016, the story follows Muslimah Muhammad played by Ebony Perry, a twenty-something African-American orthodox Muslim woman from Inglewood, CA who works as a counselor at South Central High.
As the tagline sums up, “She has seven days and fourteen hours left in her Iddah (Muslim separation) before she will officially be divorced from her cheating husband. Knowing that the divorce would upset her religious father and the local Muslim community, Muslimah works diligently to try to fix her broken marriage before it is too late.”
Premiering at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), where it won the distinction of “Audience Award – Narrative Feature”, Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage was recently featured in Brooklyn, NY at BAM Rose Cinemas’ New Voices in Black Cinema film series.
Not to mention that it sold out three days of screening during PAFF, including Valentine’s Day (how’s that for reaching an audience)!
Masterful in the conventions of romantic comedies and well-versed in relatable Black humor, the film emerges as a unicorn in the fantastical realm of #blackgirlmagic, and that’s not just because Tiffany Haddish makes an appearance in the film.
It’s because this movie is so unapologetically Black, and so unapologetically Muslim, but at the same time, so hysterically funny. It’s also authentic in its representation of beautiful and intelligent, savvy and independent Black Muslim women.
The type of Muslim women who call into question the things that just don’t make sense to them despite the well-intentioned advice from family and friends.
In this case, Muslimah’s father played by Glenn Plummer. The type of Muslim women who do not give up faith, and, better yet, are reliant on the religious faith that has nurtured their solid sensibilities as women in a secular world.
The type of Muslim women who are quirky and outrageous, who have men of all ethnicities and backgrounds finding them desirable, and actually have untold options in life that include more than whether to remain married or get divorced. Just ask Ummi, Muslimah’s unmarried, wise and well-traveled mother played by Kimberly Bailey.
Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage is the brainchild of director Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar, Assistant Professor of Pan African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that she first picked up a camera to make a film with her siblings at the age of 10.
Fast forward to present day, and you still see the tight-knit Bakeer family as a part of the cast and production of the film, with her sister Kenyatta producing while her father, Donald Bakeer, who wrote the book that inspired the movie South Central, executive produced Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage.
Aminah’s upbringing in the Nation of Islam, and her experiences in navigating a first marriage and subsequent divorce, helped shape the satirical storyline and the range of characters that could only be characterized through Abdul-Jabbaar’s personal lens.
While earning a BA from USC in Cinema Television with an emphasis in Critical Studies and an M.F.A. from UCLA in Film & TV Production with an emphasis in Directing, she’s cultivated the expertise and connections to forge a solid career as one of Hollywood’s few Muslim women filmmakers in demand.
Her first feature length documentary, Bilalian, won the Visionary Award at the 2002 Pan African Film Festival, which garnered a glowing review from Variety praising the film’s focus on Black American Muslims in America.
In the same way that Black Panther synthesizes the best and most entertaining aspects of Black excellence, Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage leaves an unforgettable impression on every viewer, whether Muslim or not.
Impressively, it’s captured the type of movie magic that’s found in the greatest romantic comedies you wish to watch over and over again. Mashallah!
– Contributed by Mai Perkins
Mai Perkins is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world, with several blogs under her belt including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com. She is a contributing writer for the music publication Pop-Mag.com, and has written for Relevant and Bust Magazine.
With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA in International Affairs from The New School, she reps her beloved alma mater, Howard University, every chance she gets. As a poet and a non-fiction writer, she has just published her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending, available now on Amazon & Kindle.
Twitter: @flymai on Twitter