queer cinema

 

Queer people exist within all cultures, religions, and races—and Islam is no exception. While this is a faith mostly foreign to Americans, it is the second largest religion in the world. Islamic law considers homosexuality a sin and a punishable offense—but when have laws kept us down? This month we look at three recent films about queer Muslims.

naz_maalikNAZ & MAALIK

First time director Jay Dockendorf brings us a day-in-the-life of two African American closeted gay Muslim teenagers in NAZ & MAALIK. While that description may sound very specific the simple beauty of this film is how average and ordinary this young couple comes across. Naz is the more pious of the two—much more concerned about his standing in Islam and uncertain about his sexuality. Maalik on the other hand is the more street smart and comfortable in his skin. On an average Friday Naz and Maalik spend the day hawking lottery tickets and trading cards of Christian saints on the subway and on street corners. The boys also have a run-in with an apparent street thug who attempts to sell them a gun. While Naz and Maalik easily brush the guy off, this exchange does speak to today’s Islamophobia putting them under sudden FBI surveillance. The FBI stalking does feel a bit heavy-handed, but the real charm of NAZ & MAALIK is the in-between moments. The casual conversations between these two teenage gay boys about their religion and their emotions toward each other ground them as any other queer young men struggling with self.

Available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Vimeo.  Online at: nazandmaalik.com

 

a-sinner-in-mecca-2015-poster A SINNER IN MECCA

The Hajj pilgrimage is something all Muslims are called upon to do at least once in their lives. Filmmaker Parvez Sharma, filming almost exclusively on his iPhone, takes us with to Mecca for a first-hand look into his Hajj. This alone is amazing, but not only is filming forbidden in Saudi Arabia but Sharma is an openly gay activist filmmaker in a land where homosexuality is punishable by death. In 2007, Sharma released his previous documentary A Jihad For Love exploring homosexuality within the Islamic faith. This film, while well received in the West, brought him condemnation and death threats from some Muslims. A SINNER IN MECCA follows Sharma as he leaves his husband and his safe American home to travel to a world rarely by Western eyes. He joins millions of other Muslims from around the world taking the treacherous multi-day long Hajj, which has changed little from the 14th century. The shots of thousands of people circling the Kaaba Stone alone are breathtaking. While his feet are planted firmly on the ground of Mecca, his thoughts–which we hear as narration–are never far from his internal struggle to reconcile his homosexually with this religion. A SINNER IN MECCA stands as equally a religious study and as a true human study of the struggle with faith and love.

Available on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.  Online at: asinnerinmecca.com

 

orientedORIENTED

Khader, Fadi, and Naeem are gay Palestinian’s living in Tel Aviv and working to balance their national identity and sexuality in this intriguing documentary by Jake Witzenfeld. Presented in a fly-on-the-wall style without narration, this film intimately brings you deep in the lives of these three men as they all deal with different personal struggles. Naeem is a nurse and a self-proclaimed atheist and feminist struggling with coming out to his highly religious family. Khader is fully accepted by his Muslim family and lives with his Jewish boyfriend David and their Dalmatian Otis, but he has an activist side trying to change perceptions of queer Palestinians. Fadi is a Palestinian nationalist struggling with feelings he has for an Israeli “Zionist.” The three friends form “Qambuta” a group set to “change their reality” through creative non-violent means. While more political than religious, ORIENTED gives us a different and varied look at our Muslim and Middle Eastern LGBT family.

Available on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.  Online at: orientedfilm.com

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