SXSW Exclusive Review: I’ll Meet You There

Year: 2020
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Director: Iram Parveem Bilal
Writers: Iram Parveem Bilal, Rajeev Dassani (contributing writer), Uttam Sirur (contributing writer)
Stars: Faran Tahir, Nikita Tewani, Qavi Khan

By Tom Moore

With her second feature film, “I’ll Meet You There”, writer/director Iram Parveem Bilal crafts an intriguing and enlightening Pakistani story centered on a universal cultural struggle that’s boasted by strong performances.

The film follows Majeed (Faran Tahir), a Muslim Chicago police officer, and his daughter Dua (Nikita Tewani), an aspiring dancer, as they are greeted with the unexpected arrival of Majeed’s more traditional father Baba (Qavi Khan). While Majeed and Dua have become more enveloped into American culture, Baba’s presence makes them experience a culture that in Dua’s case she doesn’t know and Majeed’s case that he tries to forget.

However, when Majeed goes on an undercover at a mosque Baba attends and Dua begins to learn a forbidden dance for a Juilliard audition, they have moments of culture shock that brings up dark secrets about their family’s past that threaten to tear them apart.

Majeed being sworn in copy_CC

I’ll Meet You There is instantly unique in the story it tells as it digs into Islamic culture in a way that most mainstream films would be too afraid to do and offers drama in a more genuine way. Bilal never makes the film too overdramatic and instead creates this personal connection with Majeed and Dua that keeps viewers attached to their struggles the whole way through. Whether it’s Majeed using his father to visit a mosque for an undercover assignment or Dua having an identity crisis, it’s hard not to be invested into their struggles and the use of traditional Islamic ideals, a great mix of modern and traditional costume design from Aminah Haddad, and music from Cion Collective gives it this authentic flavor.

“I’ll Meet You There” is gripping in how it makes you think, and Bilal makes a story that’s universal through how she keeps it real for the sake of authenticity – something that should be done more often.”

With this connection, you really feel like you’re growing and learning with Majeed and Dua and gaining a better understanding about how their American and Islamic ideals clash – especially with Dua. Her passion for dance and her genuinely good-heart make her immediately relatable and you invest yourself into her aspirations – even as an outsider because she’s not that different. With Majeed keeping her ignorant from Islamic values, she’s really just like any other American teen and it’s what makes her interactions with Baba and Islamic culture so intriguing because it’s for the first time.

Her reactions to what she reads in the Quran, Baba’s lack of support for her dancing, and even just experiencing what its like to be at a mosque as a woman is really enlightening and there’s this great internal conflict that Tewani thrives with. Tewani delivers a versatile performance as she makes Dua questioning everything about her life come off very genuine and her need to find out why she’s been kept away from Islamic values is very interesting. Not to mention, she kills it in all the dance sequences throughout the film and they’d honestly be perfect if there weren’t these choppy slow-motion effects thrown in throughout the film.

Majeed on stairs_cc

As for Majeed’s undercover investigation in the local mosque, it’s certainly another interesting cultural identity crisis – even if it’s not as strong. Dua’s side of things is definitely much more compelling and there’re times that Majeed’s side doesn’t connect as well to the whole story, but Tahir’s performance more than makes up for what it lacks. There’s this great walking on eggshells vibe you get every time he ventures into the mosque or is pleasantly greeted by others because he’s supposed to be investigating them. It’s a truly interesting experience to see him wrestle with possibly betraying his own people and even figuring out who his own people are, and Tahir goes through each scene with pure confidence and heart.

“It’s a story about seeking balance and understanding and it’s what makes “I’ll Meet You There” both unique and important.”

Where “I’ll Meet You There” is really at its best though, is when everything comes together as it paints one family’s past coming into the present in such a genuine way. Dua figuring out what really happened to her mother because of dance is incredibly well built and heartbreaking because Tahir’s performance is so raw in the moment.

Baba wants to go home_cc

Even the whole experience and ending of Majeed’s investigation is genuinely emotional because Khan’s performance is so believable, and his single sentence utter along the lines of “I want to go home” hits you right where it hurts. It’s also impressive to see how the film doesn’t point fingers and doesn’t shove its characters of being characterized as “good guys” and “bad guys” or “right” or “wrong” – regardless of their ending viewpoints. It’s a story about seeking balance and understanding and it’s what makes “I’ll Meet You There” both unique and important.

“I’ll Meet You There” is gripping in how it makes you think, and Bilal makes a story that’s universal through how she keeps it real for the sake of authenticity – something that should be done more often. As each moment passes, it sets out to further your thinking just as its characters are and because of Bilal and two stellar lead performances, it does that with ease.

4 stars

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