5 Great Movies About LGBT Middle Easterners

5 Great Movies About LGBT Middle Easterners

Recovering from your Pride weekends? Consider watching some films about LGBT people living in a world potentially quite different from your own:

1. "The Bubble" (Ha-Buah).  Director: Eytan Fox.

filmmaker Eytan Fox’s bittersweet festival favorite The Bubble is not only a political tour de force but it is also one
of the most touching and poignant love stories that ever hit the silver screen.

While doing
his mandatory army service at an Israeli checkpoint, brooding Noam meets and
falls in love with a charismatic Palestinian, Ashraf. With the help of his two
bohemian roommates, Noam smuggles Ashraf into Tel Aviv and an intense love
affair blossoms between these two polar opposites. However, when the harsh
realities of Israeli-Palestine conflict burst their cozy bubble, both Noam and
Ashraf make life-altering decisions that lead to an explosive finale…

More than
just a sappy story of star-crossed lovers, The
is a bold and honest exploration of race, otherization, sexuality
and politics inside the war-torn Middle East. With quirky dialogue, top-notch
acting and a killer indie soundtrack, The
is a must-see for every Cinephile. 

2. "Circumstance." Director: Maryam Keshavarz.

Keshavarz’s Circumstance is an
explicit and haunting coming-of-age drama that profoundly depicts the damaging
psychosocial effects of oppressive fundamentalist politics on the youth in
contemporary Iran. 

Atafeh is a
teenage girl living in Tehran with her liberal parents and her older,
fresh-out-of-rehab brother, Mehran. As expected from teenagers, both Atafeh and
her best friend, Shireen, are curious about sex and nightlife; they frequent
lush private parties, underground bars and experiment with drugs. As a result
of various drug-fueled escapades, the girls come to a realization that their
feelings for each other run much deeper than friendship. However, this triggers
a chain reaction of events that destroy Atafeh’s crumbling family and her
fragile bond with Shireen.

In Circumstance, from kaleidoscopic
underground nightclubs to hedonistic house gatherings, from dingy police
stations to the placid countryside, Keshavarz takes the viewer on a magic
carpet ride through Tehran, which was never explored this delicately in Cinema
before. In that regard, this is a spectacular love poem for Tehran.

On the other
hand, this is a chilling and all too real portrait of how the oppressive
Islamic regime in Iran can claim minds coming from even the most liberal
backgrounds. Through the use of recurring motifs and gut-wrenching plot twists,
this movie says something attention worthy about Iran’s current fundamentalist
regime and its destructive effects on the impressionable mind of the youth, all
the while depicting the contemporary political climate of Iran in a neorealist
style without ever really villainizing anyone. 

3. "Lola
and Billy the Kid" (Lola + Billidikid). Director: Kutlug Ataman

Written and
directed by the Carnegie Prize winner conceptual artist Kutlug Ataman, Lola and Billy the Kid is a dark and
twisted melodrama that takes place entirely in the microcosm of Turkish
immigrants living in Germany.

Murat, the
youngest son of a conservative Turkish family, is struggling with his sexuality
as well as with the demands of his patriarchal older brother. When Murat meets
with Lola – his estranged brother who now is a drag queen – and her macho
Turkish lover, Billy the Kid, he finds himself drawn into a dangerous new
world. As Murat’s road to self-discovery takes him deeper and deeper into
Berlin’s seedy gay underworld, various murky family secrets are revealed and we
are introduced to a motley-crew of vividly three dimensional LGBT characters
who are all struggling to find a place in a savagely heteronormative world.

At times
over-the-top and utterly disturbing, this Fassbinder-esque drama is surely not
everyone’s cup of tea. However, underneath its bleak façade, Lola and Billy the Kid is a modern fable
about acceptance, family ties and unconditional love. 

4. "Three Dancing Slaves." Director: Gaël Morel.

Through a
subtle, Cinema-Verite style, in this art-house gem, director Gaël Morel creates a succinct
roman-fleuves that is as inspiring as it is unsettling. Shot in a
working-class neighborhood in Annecy, France, Three Dancing Slaves focuses on the lives of three Algerian
brothers who are trying to keep their family together after the recent death of
their mother.

Marc is a
volatile thug, who is in trouble with a local gang. His sensitive younger
brother, Olivier, is just beginning to discover his budding homosexuality and
their oldest brother, Christophe, is struggling to get a job after being
released from prison. As the trio come of age against the backdrop of gang wars
and economic inequalities, what unfolds is an elegant cine-essay about a family
on the verge of a breakdown.  

5. "A Jihad for Love." Director: Parvez

controversial documentary looks into the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims from
a selection of diverse countries, including Iran, Egypt, India, Turkey,
Pakistan, Canada and South Africa. Openly-gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma’s
ambitious project was shot in twelve countries, in nine languages, and it
features interviews with dozens of gays and lesbians who all happen to be
extremely devoted followers of Islam. For these people, life is anything but
simple since every day they have to confront raging homophobia of their
respective Islamic cultures.

Sharma closely and subjectively follow his
subjects and this results in an emotionally-charged documentary that captures
intimate moments such as a lesbian couples first visit to their in-laws and an
asylum-seeking gay couples’ official arrival to their haven, Canada. At a time,
when people are still using religion to condemn LGBT people, it is both
refreshing and thought-provoking to see LGBT people who dare to stand up for
their faith, even it means

their own lives in the process.             

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frank hui

These are good choices but there are a number of other excellent dealing with middle east characters. Facing Mirrors is 1 of the most superb films containing a lead character who is trans. Even more incredible is that it came from Iran. The Invisible Men is an excellent documentary about gay palestinians trying to emigrate out of occupied territories and escape to a friendlier environment

nanci gaglio

rolla selbak's THREE VEILS.


One of my favorites is the french film " Le fil" by Mehdi Ben Attia. Although exaggerated, it does offer a insight into the very queer lives of the Tunisian upper middle class, their relationship with those they employ and the more underprivileged youth part of the Tunisian diaspora in france just setting foot in Tunis.


I love "Circumstance". Has made such a profound impact on my life since seeing it at Sundance in '11. (Reza Sixo Safai is wonderful. Wow.) I definitely look forward to more from Maryam Keshavarz.

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