After “entering talks” in July, Bassam Tariq has confirmed that he is directing Marvel Studios’ Blade reboot.
Tariq is an up-and-coming filmmaker whose home is “London / Houston / NYC” but whose roots are definitively from Pakistan. Tariq has shaped his life and career around unpacking what it means to be a Muslim in western society post-9/11. His documentary-style filmmaking is intimate and raw, soft-spoken yet powerful, making him an incredible choice to lead Mahershala Ali’s take on Blade
When asked about Blade during the press tour for his feature debut Mogul Mowgli (out today in the US and UK!), Tariq spoke about the power of cinema, the difference between documentary and feature filmmaking, and his teased a small bit of his Blade preproduction process so far.
Bassam Talks Blade and More
In two separate interviews, Tariq stressed the importance of the opening of a film for immediately introducing the viewer to the world of the film in a safe and accessible way, regardless of what could happen later in the movie.
“What I love about cinema is the ability that I don’t need to know f-ing anything, and I have to sit in this chair and [the movie has] to give you the rules. I need to know the rules and understand what this world is that I’m about to go into. It needs to be accessible.” [Guy at the Movies]
“You give the rules of your film in the first 10 minutes. You tell them exactly what it is. You can break the rules later, but they need to feel safe.” [The Playlist]
These gives me the impression that Blade will start with a powerful, arresting prologue introducing the audience to both the new version of the character and Tariq’s unique style of the new film.
INTIMACY AND HUMANITY IN BLADE
Tariq’s filmography is quiet yet emotionally powerful. In the same interview, Tariq described his new film Mogul Mowgli as a “paper cut to the heart.” Unassuming and seemingly gentle yet devastatingly real, honest, and beautiful, Mogul Mowgli demonstrates how Tariq could bring an unprecedented range of sorrow, joy, and introspective humanity to the MCU.
In the same interview, Tariq praised his cinematographer Annika Summerson for bringing “a very strong female gaze”, “sensuality”, and “intimacy” to his film — which we should keep in mind, because she’ll possibly be the same cinematographer he’ll employ on Blade.
Speaking to Blade specifically, Tariq confessed that the huge scope of the MCU film is forcing him to be even more humble and “vulnerable” about his filmmaking process, even leading him to learn a mysterious sword fighting style and his conversations with Chloé Zhao and other Marvel directors.
“If anything, I need to be more vulnerable…Anytime I try to act smarter than I am, I f-ck up. So I’m not doing that. ‘Just admit that I don’t know’ is the biggest thing. Like right now I’m learning– [avoids saying name], like, how to fight. I’m afraid to say what fighting system I’m gonna learn because that might reveal something, but it’s important, right? Like how to hold a sword, all these things because [the responsibility is on me].”
“What’s so amazing about people like Kevin Feige is [that] they’re all about like, ‘Cool let’s take these risks, let’s bring them on.’ I spoke to Chloé about it as well, and I’m just honored that I have this family of other Marvel directors that have made this leap similar to me, and they’ve been very supportive as well.”
RACE IN BLADE
In a separate interview with The Playlist podcast, Tariq brought up the question ‘What does it mean to deracialize somebody?’, which he thinks about during all of his projects. Deracialization is when an actor of color portrays a generic role without any references to their home culture or their unique experience. Tariq even cited the famously colorblind Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as an example. In his own words, “I feel like we’re past that.”
“For me, coming from my experience, being South Asian, I can’t hide from that [but] if you read the Blade comics, they never mentioned who he is. It’s almost this masking of his identity or his race…That’s what I get really curious about. How can that be an added plus? Or not just an added plus, but a way to see the world differently, and how beautiful that is?…What does it mean for diversity? Is it like, ‘We’re here to fill in a hole’? Or is it like, ‘Who we are brings something else to the story that’s more than just our melanin’?…What do each of us bring?…That’s what I think about, even as I work on [Blade].”
BASSAM TARIQ’S PERSPECTIVE ON CINEMA
“The power of cinema to me is just to expand hearts. Anytime I go see something, I just want my heart f-ing expanded. I want to learn something…That’s the power of great cinema. If we can just expand hearts… the best of art does that for me. And that’s what I look to art for.”
Possibly tempering expectations for the darkness of Blade, Tariq says “I understand some people like to interrogate the darkness of humanity, but I can read the f-ing news for that. There’s nothing new you’re going to tell me watching something that’s overly dark and the world’s a dark place… I have to believe there is a reason to be there.” Quoting Leonard cohen, he says “‘There’s a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets in.’ That’s what I’m curious about.”
According to Tariq, “Everything is an experiment.” This was true for the experimental horror aspects of Mogul Mowgli, and will almost definitely play into his unique approach to Blade.
Little else 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 potential release in October 2023. Tariq’s debut feature film Mogul Mowgli starring Riz Ahmed is in theaters now.