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Sex, Muslims and NYPD Spying at Center of Bed-Stuy Film, Director Says

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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Race, sexuality and the NYPD's alleged surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers in Bed-Stuy are at the center of an independent movie from a local director, the filmmakers said.

Director Jay Dockendorf, along with producers Jacob Albert and Margaret Katcher, are raising money on Kickstarter to complete NAZ + MAALIK, a fictional film about two first-generation Muslim teenagers struggling with their own sexuality in their conservative religious community, while hustling on the streets of Bed-Stuy and being trailed by investigators.

The independent drama, which has finished shooting but is hoping to raise $35,000 for editing and post-production, was shot almost entirely in Bed-Stuy, and is based loosely on experiences and conversations Dockendorf picked up in his travels, the dirtector said.

"We like to say the movie is a combination of documentary and fiction," Dockendorf said. "A lot of the literal dialogue I overheard and actual behavior I witnessed was in the script."

Dockendorf, 25, said he conceived the film after moving to Brooklyn last summer and falling in love with his new Bed-Stuy home, where the fast pace and diversity of the area was a surprise to the director.

"Getting off the subway and feeling the crush of so many thousands of people at that intersection was very revealing and exciting to me," Dockendorf said. "I could tell you I loved the colors of it and the mix of personality and stately gothic architecture, or the vibe of the street. It feels like another city, separate from New York."

After reading the Associated Press' Pulitzer Prize-winning look into the NYPD's practice of monitoring Muslim communities, Dockendorf started to think about the black Muslim community near his new home, and began to write.

The director enlisted the help of fellow Yale alums Albert and Katcher, both 24, to produce the film, and the group was immediately infatuated with the project and the neighborhood, Albert said.

"It's just an amazing place with all kinds of tensions, both positive and negative, with a rich history and a lot of color," Albert said. "So it's kind of a love letter to that."

As of Wednesday, the film has more than $15,000 of the $35,000 goal, with 20 days left to go. Backers will receive items like Brooklyn-themed totes and T-shirts, as well as records from Brooklyn record labels Frenchkiss and Kanine, and a digital download of the completed film.

The hefty price tag is enough to make a rough cut of the film, the filmmakers said, but they hope to raise at least $75,000 for the finished product, and said they're pouring "every single cent" into the creation of the film.

"The diversity of the neighborhood is something I think comes across, the vitality," Albert said. "I loved it so much, and I wanted to make sure this film was made in the best possible way."