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This In-Development Series Will Bring Romance, Race Politics and Midlife Rebellion to the Internet
Wed, Aug 12, 2020: “Zarqa” is a new comedy series in development from FUNdamentalist Films, a Regina-based production company belonging to Zarqa Nawaz, the Creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie. With funds from the Canada Media Fund (CMF), the Independent Production Fund (IPF), and Creative Saskatchewan, the web series is currently in development, with a proof-of-concept trailer dropping on Zarqa Nawaz’s Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts on Aug 15, 2020.
The premise is simple: after Zarqa, a middle-aged and very complicated Muslim woman, learn son Facebook that her ex-husband is marrying a younger, skinny, white yoga instructor, Zarqa texts back that she’s coming to the wedding with her own cliché: a white brain surgeon named Brian. Now she just has to find him. Zarqa Nawaz herself will star in the series. This is Zarqa Nawaz’s second original television series.
Her first show, Little Mosque on Prairie, was the world’s first sitcom about Muslims. The show premiered in 2007 to high ratings, breaking a 20-year record for CBC TV. It aired 91 episodes for 6 seasons, and sold in over 65 countries around the world, including to Hulu. Zarqa subsequently toured the world speaking about the show. Since then, she has sold 4 pilots to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, written a bestselling comedic memoir, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque (published by Harper Collins), was an advice columnist for The Globe & Mail, a broadcast personality for CBC Radio, the host of The Morning Edition (Saskatchewan CBC Radio’s morning show), and the anchor of CBC Saskatchewan’s six o’clock news–and gotten into stand-up in Western Canada. She is now returning to TV with a roar.
“This is definitely not Little Mosque on the Prairie,” says Creator and Executive Producer Nawaz. “First of all, I’m acting, which is a lot of fun and slightly terrifying. And I hope fans of Little Mosque will love ‘Zarqa,’ but this show explores new themes: race politics and fetishization of the ‘other’ when it comes to love, dating and attraction. I’m not bitter, divorced or racist, but I love characters who are flawed, a little unlikeable and very unconventional, especially when they’re women. And just to clarify, this is not autobiographical. My husband has not run off with anyone. I’m still happily married.”
“Zarqa” was one of 13 English and 7 French projects selected for the 2020 edition of the Development Packaging Program from the Independent Production Fund (IPF) and Canada Media Fund (CMF). The funding allowed for the development of the show’s creatives (a show “bible” and three scripts), as well as the production of the trailer for posting online. Since then, Creative Saskatchewan has also come on board with marketing funding.
Nawaz and fellow “Zarqa” Executive Producer Claire Ross Dunn (Little Mosque, Degrassi, the Animated Anne of Green Gables, Love at Look Lodge) co-wrote the trailer script as a proof of concept for the show. Directed by “Zarqa” producer Liz Whitmere (The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island, Rapping With Actors, Late Night in the Studio), the trailer was shot in one day on July 14, 2020, with COVID protocols in place.
“Shooting during COVID was an experience and a half,” says Nawaz. “I drove 32 hours from Regina to Toronto to avoid taking a plane. All cast and crew had to take COVID tests prior to the shoot and actor Husnain Sher(who plays my son) and I were shot separately, in different rooms, at different times. We had a skeleton crew who wore masks during the shoot and only took them off outside during breaks. The location was sanitized prior to the shoot and afterwards. It was a huge amount of effort, but worth it, of course, to keep the team safe.”
“Still,” says Nawaz, “we had a ton of fun. We had a 100% female production crew on the day, and our entire team – from production to post – is predominantly BIPOC, which was really important to me.” The team is working towards production of the show’s season one in the summer of 2021. The “Zarqa” trailer drops on Zarqa Nawaz’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages on Aug 15, 2020.
For more information, contact FUNdamentalist Films:
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What the Media Says About Zarqa Nawaz
“Zarqa Nawaz is one very Funny Lady, the Sultana of the Sardonic, maybe even the Imamma of the Ironic.” —Robert Collison | Toronto Star
“Zarqa’s knack of finding the funny in serious situations will have you laughing out loud.” —Chatelaine Magazine
“Unafraid to push buttons with a feisty, feminist twist, Nawaz cites Nora Ephron as her writing spirit guide.” —Sarah Berman | The Tyee
“It’s astonishing how well Zarqa barrels forward with her beliefs with unabashed conviction—and a good dose of humour.” —Jill Buchner | Canadian Living
“‘One can’t say I’m picking on one group and not the other. I think it’s a warts-and-all look at the whole community. I pick on right-wing and left-wing Muslims, I pick on the secular… I think it’s important to go after everyone in comedy, so that no-one is happy -except the viewers of course,’ she [Zarqa Nawaz] laughs.” —Lee Carter | BBCNews.com, 2007