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Wayward Son: The Jordan Richter Story premiered last week at the Ta'leef Collective, a Muslim cultural center in Fremont, Calif. 

The film documents the rapid rise of professional skateboarder Jordan Richter and his sudden disappearance from the spot light in the mid 90's after seeking a spiritual path. It is deeply emotional and at times shockingly honest.

It's melancholy score and the raw, behind the scenes style of shooting captivates the audience with an intimate look at the life and trials of the former skateboarding star. 

Mustafa Davis, the film's producer calls it his "most important film thus far." Perhaps, because the story deeply resonates with many converts like Davis, and those struggling to fuse their Western identities with Islamic principles.

Richter tells the story of his difficult childhood coming from a broken home and surrounded by drug use. A self portrait of Jordan as a teenager reenacting the cover of the 1985 Best of The Doors album serves as a symbol of the path he was on.

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, led a reckless, hedonistic and nihilistic life until his death at 27. But Jordan seems to have escaped that fate.

He discovered skateboarding as a youth in San Diego and quickly became a passionate and innovative professional skateboarder. He won many competitions, acquired paid sponsors and appeared on the covers of some of the most popular publications in the industry.

But Richter’s  conversion to Islam would change all that and led to a rather difficult and unexpected path.

The professional skateboarder made a living through the photography and videos of his famed face and extra ordinary skills on the half pipe. He was given an un-nuanced opinion prohibiting photography in Islam, a similar experience that led to Yusuf Islam's (the rock star formerly known as Cat Stevens) long hiatus from music. Thus, the rising star quit competitive skateboarding altogether.

Richter describes a kind of cultural imperialism that exists in the Muslim community. He was eager to seek answers, learn and grow within the newfound religion. He called this "a fire in the chest.”

However, those he found himself surrounded by, tried to mold him into their own projections, and with their misguided attempts, proved to be detrimental to Richter’s growth as a human being.

This type of spiritual predation is identified as a symptom of a spiritual void within the cultural imperialist, who does not seek a personal relationship with God, but instead seeks to control the spirituality of others.

Although this is not a part of the religious tradition, in this problematic paradigm, social pressures too often strip converts of their identity. 

Now 15 years later, he is attempting a comeback.

At its root, the film is about struggling with identity throughout Richter’s phoenix like story.  

By and large, it seems that the identity abyss that many cross, having ripped away one's self only to go back and pick up the pieces, is a kind of hero’s journey.

Beneath the years of self-denial, he only found the same teenage boy he left behind.

The film juxtaposes recent footage of his struggle to relearn the art with archival footage of him in his youth landing the most difficult tricks. Jordan put in a lot of hard work to regain his skills, much of what came naturally to him as a youngster. 

“Deep down inside I love skateboarding. I am a skateboarder. That is my passion. Now I am trying to dig that back up,” says Ritcher.

2 Comments

Unordinary

October 29th

Nicely said. Great movie, would love to watch it.


DaGreenLantern

July 27th

This is a great story and I am interested to see the documentary. It is a shame that many converts such as Richter and Yusuf Islam have had to go through this phase where they are influenced by "holier than though" wahabi and salafi Muslims who try to force their own opinions and views on converts. I hope more new Muslims see this film and realize that it is okay to be both American and Muslim. We dont have to give up our talents and dreams just because we are now Muslim. If that was the case, then Islam would not have spread as far and wide as it has in the world. It would have stopped dead in it's tracks. But Islam is about keeping your own identity - that is why converts are allowed to keep their original names and dont have to change them after they become Muslim.






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