EXCLUSIVE: Riz Ahmed and his Left Handed Films have come aboard the 2023 SXSW Audience Award winner Mustache, marking the feature directorial and screenwriting debut of Imran J. Khan, as executive producers.
In addition to Ahmed and Left-Handed’s Allie Moore, exec producers on the project include The Bear creator Christopher Storer, as well as Tyson Bidner and Josh Senior. Christina Won and Jessica Sittig produced, with Parker Mays co-producing alongside Cooper Wehde of American Light & Fixture. UTA Independent Film Group is handling worldwide sales.
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Khan comes to the partnership with Ahmed and Left Handed a year after being named one of the inaugural participants of the Pillars Artist Fellowship, their filmmaker program created with Pillars, as a means of mentoring and championing rising Muslim talents.
An homage to coming-of-age films, ’90s nostalgia, and awkward teenage transitions, Mustache takes place in mid-’90s Northern California, where 13-year-old Pakistani American Ilyas (Atharv Verma) is facing a major crisis — his parents yanked him out of his comfortable Islamic private school and now he has to face life at public school. Ilyas’ fears about joining public school are made worse by insecurities due to his inescapable, prepubescent mustache. He therefore hatches a hilarious plan to return to his old school, though in the end he must also learn to accept himself.
Meesha Shafi, Rizwan Manji, Alicia Silverstone, Hasan Minhaj, and Ayana Manji co-star.
In a statement to Deadline, Ahmed and Moore explained that when they first connected with Khan through the Pillars Artist Fellowship, they were “immediately blown away. Imran is the real deal. The visual flair, the quirky humour, the heart-melting emotion of his vision were instantly clear. All of these superpowers are on display in his debut feature Mustache, and we are thrilled to come on board.”
The duo went on to call Khan’s first feature “the film we all need right now,” as “a classic teen film from a point of view we never see.” Continued the duo, “It’s a story that brilliantly transports us back to those awkward, hilarious, and painful moments of our own that made us who we are. This is an undeniable crowd pleaser from an irresistible and unique new voice. We can’t wait for more people to see it.”
Added Khan, “It’s phenomenal to see all the work that Left Handed Films has done to support up-and-coming artists and I’m so grateful to Riz Ahmed for partnering with us on Mustache. We can’t wait to continue to work with Riz and Allie Moore to bring this special film to audiences everywhere.”
Past projects from Left Handed include The Long Goodbye, co-written by and starring Ahmed, which won the 2022 Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short; Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee, which made history as the first film to notch Oscar noms in Best Animated, Documentary and International Feature categories; and Bassam Tariq’s BAFTA-nominated rapper drama Mogul Mowgli, starring Ahmed, which won the Fipresci Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.
Former AMC exec Moore joined Left Handed in January 2021, as the company set its first-look television deal with Amazon Studios. Other upcoming projects for the company include an adaptation of the novel Exit West in partnership with the Obamas’ Higher Ground and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO, and a reimagining of Hamlet.
On the acting front, Ahmed can currently be seen in Fingernails, the romantic drama from Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou, which premiered at Telluride in August. Also starring Jessie Buckley, Jeremy Allen White, and Luke Wilson, the film debuted on Apple TV+ on November 3rd after hitting theaters in limited release in October.
Ahmed and Left Handed Films are represented by WME. Khan is repped by UTA and Bellevue Productions.
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