Published Jul 18, 2008To the best of my knowledge, this is the first documentary in English about gay Muslims. This makes it slightly disappointing that its greatest achievement is to make you want more context.
The film jumps from country to country, juxtaposing various repressive laws, from the insanity of Egypt and Iran to the relative laissez-faire of Turkey. By this I mean that director Parvez Sharma interviews one of more subjects from these nations, getting barely enough to suggest that they are still religious and suffering greatly.
That much should be easily gathered, and those surprised by the insistence of gay Muslims to stay religious know nothing of the power of spirituality to triumph over dogma.
But beyond this, one has to put bits and pieces together: the horror of a man rounded up and abused as one of the "Cairo 52, or the three refugees waiting in Canada to be told of their status are muted by our lack of understanding of either their cultural context or who they are as people.
The film is challenging and heartbreaking in pieces the scene where a once-married writer discusses his orientation with his daughters is funny and disturbing all at once but the simple fact that gays retain their Muslim faith isnt shattering enough to keep this from being vaguely suggestive rather than vividly drawn.
Sandi DuBowski is one of the producers and his Trembling Before G-d is a more devastating attack on a similar subject. I wish Sharma had his filmmaking gift rather than the tentative approach he applies here. (Mongrel Media)