ByDena Pech, writer at Creators.co
Award winning screenwriter. Storyteller. "What a man can't remember doesn't exist for him."
Dena Pech

With film festivals highlighting the best of indie movies throughout the year, some are bound to get discovered and take off. Premiering at South by Southwest (SXSW) earlier this year, Signature Move is a rom com that looks to be the next indie sensation.

With rom coms such as The Big Sick gaining critical acclaim and tackling real life experiences, Signature Move — about a young Muslim woman who gets into "Lucha-style wrestling," finding romance with a Mexican-American woman — has the potential to find the same footing. It also marks Jennifer Reed's first full-length feature film after a series of female-led shorts on the festival circuit.

Screenwriter/actor co-wrote Signature Move with Lisa Donato. The story focuses on Mirza’s personal experiences; her character Zaynab is a lawyer who falls in love with a Mexican-American woman, as Mirza did in real life:

"The love between the Mexican-American woman and a Pakistani-American woman is inspired by my actual relationship with a Mexican-American woman. When we started dating, we found so many connections between our cultures… that was the initial inspiration for the film."

Just as The Big Sick depicted Kumail Nanjiani's real-life experience of a cross-cultural romance, Mirza is doing the same. As Mirza says:

"The film is not showing a side of Muslim women that I think most people are used to seeing or sometimes want to see, which is they’re being saved, or they’re escaping these constraints, they’ve broken the shackles of their religion or culture. The reason the film isn’t about that is because it’s not my reality. The point of this film was to make something so regular, so normal, and that’s what makes it radical."

Mirza added her newfound love for wrestling into the love story, making for a great balance between romance and action.

How Lucha Wrestling Plays A Major Role In The Film

'Signature Move' [Credit: New City]
'Signature Move' [Credit: New City]

Wrestling has always been a fun medium to watch, as the recent Netflix show GLOW proved. It depicted an era of female wrestling that degraded its players for entertainment; however, Signature Move hopes to lighten the mood in terms of storytelling, and uses wrestling to communicate nonverbal dialogue.

One of the film’s central themes is the relationship between mother and daughter, and the communication between them. Zaynab's lover Alma (Sari Sanchez) is fully communicative with her own mother, while Zaynab isn’t with hers. Between the two cultures, Zaynab finds it hard to confront her mother about her situation:

"When two people live together there is always a lot of friction, some of it overt, some of it not... Zaynab can barely live her life completely because she is so cognizant of the responsibility she holds towards her mother.”

This is where Lucha wrestling comes in. The movie centers on the hardships that can happen when cultural standards clash — and the ways that love can overcome these obstacles. And this is what more indie movies need lately: diverse writing that leads to diverse roles.

How 'Signature Move' Could Inspire Personal Writing In More Female-Led Indies

Alma and Zaynab [Credit: New City]
Alma and Zaynab [Credit: New City]

Signature Move focuses on female characters who are strong-willed and diverse. And it was the director's intention to have women in front of and behind the camera:

"We also made a commitment to have lots of women behind the camera. It wasn’t just me as a director. The first assistant director was a woman, there were two female producers, the art department was all women, the makeup department was all women, the camera department was women. Shabana Azmi, who plays Parveen and is amazing, said 'This set feels different with all of these women in front of and behind the camera.' She didn't have to say that. But as we’ve been showing it around, I don’t feel like the men in the audience feel excluded from the story."

Shabana Azmi's diversity behind the camera is a step forward in filmmaking, and making such a story resonant for both men and women is another influential milestone.

I’m excited for Signature Move, and cannot wait to check it out myself. The film is killing it at film festivals across the country and internationally. It is currently set to be screened at Out On Film, Atlanta's LGBT film festival. No theatrical release date has been announced, but with such a powerful story and crew, Signature Move is bound to break out of the ring.

Are you excited to check out Signature Move? Let me know in the comment section below.

[Sources: Kronik, QueerGuruTV, Edge Media Network, RogerEbert.com, TimeOut]

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