Just a few days ago, Deadline reported that Bassam Tariq was in talks to direct the new Blade film for Marvel Studios. The trade noted that the rigorous search for a director had spanned almost a whole year.
Marvel was originally looking for a singular writer-director before deciding to hire the writer and director separately. Stacy Osei-Kuffour was enlisted as the writer in March 2021, with a second round of director searches starting anew at the same time.
Since then, Marvel has spent the past four months reviewing presentations from potential director finalists, carefully considering each filmmaker’s vision for the film, leading to this week’s announcement.
The Road To Bassam Tariq On Blade
Shortly after Blade was announced at SDCC in July 2019, rumors began floating online saying that Marvel might be making Blade Muslim to correspond to actor Mahershala Ali’s faith. The choice of Tariq, a Pakistani-born American Muslim, might seem like evidence of this being true.
But considering that Ali has also been part of the decision-making process, it’s also possible that Ali pushed for a Muslim director simply to expand the boundaries for Muslim filmmakers, or with a goal to use themes from Tariq’s work without involving Islam explicitly. Hiring Tariq isn’t a clear confirmation of Blade’s religion in the movie, but it may be an indication of the direction Marvel Studios would like to take the film. After such an exhausting selection process: who is Bassam Tariq? What will his filmography bring to the character of Blade?
After some research, the clear answer is the simplest one: Bassam Tariq is Muslim. In his career, Tariq has documented and reflected on the Muslim experience extensively, from modern America, to streets of Pakistan, to the struggle to find halal meat in New York. Exploring Islam is the central defining theme across his body of work.
He rose to prominence with a photo blog started during Ramadan in 2009, where he and a friend recorded the experience of breaking their fast in a different mosque each day in New York City. The next year they famously expanded the project to an American road trip, breaking their fast in a different state each day: 30 mosques across 30 states in 30 days.
The widely acclaimed project quickly launched his film career. Tariq’s first film was These Birds Walk (2013), a tender documentary on humanitarian efforts in Pakistan to care for runaway children under the Taliban regime. After a series of documentary shorts (many of which relate to Islam), Tariq began a partnership with Riz Ahmed. Working with Ahmed, Tariq directed the music video for Mogumbo (2018) and the beloved feature film Mogul Mowgli (2020), both of which present visually human and emotionally profound perspectives of the complex Muslim/Pakistani experience in 2010s western civilization.
Between film projects, Tariq also gave a TED talk entitled “The beauty and diversity of Muslim life” (2015) where he emphasized the importance of empathy in his films and in Islam. (One might recall that Taika Waititi similarly gave a TED talk on creativity before being hired for Thor: Ragnarok.)
In short, Bassam Tariq is one of the leading voices representing Muslims in the filmmaking community. For Marvel Studios and Mahershala Ali to make Tariq their #1 choice to direct Blade signifies clearly that the film will deal with the complexity of being a Muslim in modern society – even if it does not do so literally. Whether they make Blade Muslim or not, Tariq’s filmography shows us how his Blade could use the lens of a social outcast to empathetically explore the quest for inner peace in the face of a distrusting world. A curious perspective for a ruthless vampire hunter!
Little is known about Marvel Studio’s Blade, but it is rumored to be inspired by Tim Seeley’s unpublished storyline about the daughter of Blade. The untitled film is expected to film in July 2022 for a possible release in fall 2023.