Lesbian romance films are often a joke even among lesbians. They’re so frequently over-the-top, poorly written, and about as basic as avocado toast, that relatability and true-to-life representation gets lost.
First-time director Jennifer Reeder’s film ‘Signature Move’ is not quite as basic as the typical lesbian love story. The story takes place in Chicago, which contains a more multi-faceted ethnic community than some may realize. Zaynab (Fawzia Mirza) is a lawyer specializing in immigration issues whose widowed mother Parveen (Shabana Azmi) has recently moved into her home. Parveen spends all day sitting on a La-Z-Boy watching Pakistani soap operas and, in some awkward plotting, peering outside the window through binoculars to find Zaynab a nice Muslim husband from random passers-by on the street. This arrangement works uneasily enough until Zaynab meets the sparky Alma (Sari Sanchez) in a bar and they begin a tentative relationship.
Injecting a plot point which falls outside the romantic comedy norm, a repressed Zayneb takes wrestling lessons from her client and confidante Jayde (Audrey Francis) in lieu of payment. So it’s a happy coincidence that Alma’s feisty mother Rosa (Charin Alvarez) turns out to have been a professional luchadora back in Mexico. All roads lead out of the closet and into the ring for Zaynab as she struggles to tell the truth and accept that she has fallen in love.
Signature Movie is now screening in NYC and Chicago, check the latest screenings here
If we were to list all of the awards this movie has won, we’d be here all day, so instead here are some of the reviews that got us really excited:
“This film is an endearing slice of life set in Chicago’s Little Village, celebrating the textured lives of the city’s immigrant community.” – RogerEbert.com
“This is one of the most female-centric films I’ve ever seen and I mean that as a compliment.” – Time Out Chicago
“…it’s full of the tensions and breaking points found in everything Reeder has done. Mirza plays a tightly wound Pakistani Muslim lesbian immigration lawyer, falling in love but keeping it a secret from her tradition-bound mother (Shabana Azmi). Meantime Mirza’s character discovers the wonders of the Lucha Libre wrestling world. She’s used to wearing masks in her life, metaphorically; why not don a real one?” – Chicago Tribune
“Signature Move never attempts to take itself too seriously. And the relationship between Zaynab and Alma is both believable and likable. Viewers will root for them. Perhaps because Mirza not only stars in the film, but also co-wrote it, Signature Move also shines a small, but much-needed light on non-white queer love. That, in and of itself is rare, because like the majority of Hollywood stories, the lesbian genre is typically filled with white girls, long hair, and too much makeup. Rarely, if ever, do queer women get to see films starring multi-dimensional Middle Eastern and Latina characters. It’s a refreshing reminder that queerness not only lives, but thrives in all cultures.” – Austin Chronicle
“One of Signature Move’s charms is a perky soundtrack which makes the most of the plot’s cultural potential – from Pakistan to Mexico by way of Chicago’s immigrant communities and the luchadora female wrestling ring. First-time director Jennifer Reader’s staging can lack the flair and comic timing to break the film out, but there are plenty of vivacious consolations in a screenplay which is set partly in the ring of this outsized world.” – Screen Daily
“Staring and written by the incredibly charming Fawzia Mirza, Signature Move is a comedy that brightens the heart, exploring what it means to be a Queer Muslim while keeping it all together, and wrestling.” – Room Magazine
Read Curve Magazine’s interview with “writer, producer, actor, former lawyer, South Asian, Muslim, brown girl – just some of the words to describe Fawzia Mirza”