Sunday, October 28, 2007

Muslim Movie at Gay Festival in South Africa

From the Times in South Africa - October 28, 2007

STEAM: Cory Grant and JR Rolley in A Four Letter Word, showing at the Out in Africa Gay and
Lesbian Film Festival

TOUGH LOVE: Jay Brannan as Jake, Brent Gorski as Trevor and Melissa Searing as Andie in Holding Trevor

Muslim movie at gay festival
- Published:Oct 28, 2007

A caller to a radio station was ranting about the gay and lesbian community: “What more do they want? They’ve got constitutional rights, they can get married and adopt kids, so what are they still whining about?”

Well, the murder of Sizakele Sigasa and her partner Salome Masooa in Soweto a few months back, their bodies left on a rubbish dump, suggests there is still much that needs attention.

Laws on paper must be backed by altered perceptions, and for 13 years the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has set out to do exactly that.

The festival’s intention comes with solid endorsement. The Joburg leg will be opened on November 8 by Judge Kate O’Regan of the Constitutional Court.

But the value of the festival is not just symbolic. While challenging prejudice and preconceptions, the films also entertain and engage audiences.

For example, Indian-born Parvez Sharma’s A Jihad for Love is a documentary about the harsh, closeted lives of gay men and lesbians in Muslim culture.

Sharma analyses the Koranic texts on homosexuality, assessing their meaning and contrasting the words with the reality of being gay in a traditional Islamic culture.

The film moves from the relatively tolerant world of Turkey to Egypt to document the exile of a man who was one of 52 guests arrested after attending a gay wedding on a floating disco boat. He was severely beaten and jailed for a year. When he was released he was warned that he could face another jail term and fled into exile in Paris.

A Jihad for Love is, politically speaking, the most controversial film of the festival. Its screening will be preceded by an address by Sandi DuBowski, who directed a previous festival hit, Trembling —Before G-d” which looked at the enclosed lives of gay men in the Jewish Hasidic community.

A Jewish filmmaker, DuBowski, introducing a Muslim film on the same subject, underscores the festival’s fundamental purpose of challenging and exposing acts of prejudice and ignorance.

Another guest at the festival is American actor Jay Brannan, most recently seen in the outrageous Shortbus, playing the third party who becomes involved with a gay couple.

Brannan will introduce Holding Trevor, Rosser Goodman’s examination of a young man on the rebound from a destructive relationship with a heroin addict.

Can he move from that toxic co- dependency into an actual, honest sexual relationship?

Holding Trevor is well written and takes a lucid look at the current mood of gay society.

For giddy fun there’s A Four Letter Word, about a fabulous club bunny who is devastated when a handsome bar pick-up calls him “a gay cliché”.

By contrast, The Witnesses, by André Techiné, is a devastating examination of a group of gay friends who witnessed the onset of the Aids pandemic in France in the early ’80s.

Techiné is an old master of French cinema and this film is a dazzling display of compassion and expertise.

The Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is at Nu Metro, Killarney Mall, from November 1 to November 11.

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