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The new Brokeback Mountain
Ray Lahey16 September 2012
Out in the Dark (2012)

Director Ang Lee made Brokeback Mountain,despite its tragedy, into a beautiful picture: scenic, romantic,and even lyrical. In directing Out in the Dark, his first feature film, Michael Mayer did none of this. But what he did was to make a picture far more powerful in both plot and presentation. Lacking Brokeback's "niceness," Out in the Dark more than compensates by its realism.

The story, written by Mayer and Yael Shafir tells of the romantic relationship between a young well-connected Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian graduate student with an Israeli study permit. But Like Brokeback Mountain, the film avoids simply being a "gay-themed" one by situating their involvement within a wider setting. In the first place each must deal with his family: families unalike in nationality, class, language, culture and religion, but alike in not accepting their son's relationship. But broader social and political situations from which the two young men come pose even more serious obstacles, for the film locates their involvement with one another against the present-day tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In a way the individuals become symbols of these two solitudes, each wanting peace and security, but both slow to recognize that their futures are inseparably bound together.

The film does not lay blame. Nor does it examine the righteousness of either cause. But neither does it pull any punches. It is commendable in its honesty in dealing with both Palestinian fanaticism and the heavy-handed apparatus of the Israeli security services. In fact, it even suggests that in the end these play into the hands of one another. Above all, it evokes the atmosphere of fear under which ordinary citizens on both sides of the concrete walls and chain link fences must live and work daily, and fear's terrible toll on their personal lives.

Although the story is gripping, it is also gritty. There is little brightness here, an obviously deliberate choice of director Mayer and cinematographer Ran Aviad. They have created a visual palette that contributes to the film's effect and to the tension that is a constant thread throughout. As the title suggests, so much of the story must take place in the darkness, both literal and figurative. There are glimpses of tenderness, certainly in scenes of the relationship between the two guys, and to some extent when their families are shown. Still, the bright dawn that all involved must surely dream of never really breaks, and Mayer's ambiguous ending is the only honest one possible.

The film is splendidly cast. Michael Aloni as the young Israeli lawyer, Roy Schaefer, is able to display a wide range of emotions: caring, compassion, filial piety, and throughout everything, a hopefulness. He is credible in his naiveté also, trusting in family even when they fail to understand, and trusting far too much that the apparatus of the state will do what is right. But the performance that dominates the picture is the brilliant one given by Nicholas Jacob as the young Palestinian, Nimr Mashrawi. In his first film role, Jacob, whose parents are Arab-Italian and who grew up in Haifa and Nashville (and who is straight), is utterly convincing – and utterly captivating. He puts on the screen a character, who even in his youth, must confront demons that few will ever know. At the same time Jacob conveys the sense that, whatever the outcomes, Nimr will never let these demons overcome him. Jacob's handling of the part is so true to life as to be memorable.

But the good acting is not confined to the two leads. Alon Pdut does a fine job as an Israeli security official whose concern for the state has made him cold and hard, and who will use any means that serve his ends. Jamil Khouri as Nimr's brother is equally effective as a man caught up in a web of terror from which he cannot free himself. And as Roy's father, Alon Oleartchik comes across as a family head torn asunder by conflicting emotions. In a smaller but vital part, Loai Nofi as Mustafa, an outrageously gay Arab, does well in a role that must be both comic and tragic.

Dark the picture may be, but it is intense. It is a film that could easily be overlooked, but one that will leave an indelible impression when it is seen. Out in the Dark is Brokeback Mountain's worthy successor.

Out in the Dark premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012. It has dialogue in Hebrew and Arabic with English sub-titles. It is being distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures, but a general release date has not yet been announced.
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Best love story for years - incredibly intense film!
carlo-steven5 October 2012
I've just watched Out in the Dark at an international film festival in Germany and don't know what to say ... The film really did touch my heart quite deeply. The intense love story between an Palestinian college student and an young lawyer from Israel shows the insane and crazy political situation in that region in an so far unseen way. The two actors do such a great job that you get the impression they're living their own life and love right in front of your very eyes. Beyond the film does not only draw a dire, sad and sometimes shocking picture of that region (e.g. it shows perfectly and convincingly how difficult any kind of love between someone from Palestine and Israel is) but also conveys hope - and celebrates the unique power and connecting nature of authentic love.

If you want to see one of the best and most touching and dramatic love stories (be it gay, straight or whatever) go for it and watch that masterpiece! you'll remember it for a long time!

What's more, all that has been said is even more impressive taking into account that this is the director's first full-length movie. Wow and congratulations!

All the best from Germany!
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A great film showing a stark reality
urimeir7 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film during its premiere at the Haifa Film Festival only two days ago. The auditorium was jam packed and that has made watching it so much better, with the audience augmenting the experience. The film depicts a love story between a Palestinian psychology student, and an Israeli lawyer. The love scenes in the film are touching, and surprisingly direct, but as a straight man, I can say that they were not at all intimidating or disturbing. In my humble opinion the politics of this inherently tragic situation (a gay love affair in the midst of the Israeli Palestinian conflict) is where the film really shines. Being a fairly patriotic Israeli, I completely identified with the 'act of treason' of the Israeli lawyer at the end of the film. Though the ending of the film is bittersweet, I think it is the most hopeful ending one could hope for in the tragic situation of the Israeli Palestinian conflict as it is right now.
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A beautiful, tender love story set in the charged reality of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
firebolt198710 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the most beautiful and touching films I've seen. While it touched me personally as a gay man, I really believe it's for everyone regardless of their sexuality or views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The story centers on Nimr, a young Palestinian man studying psychology at Birzeit university. At night, Nimr avoids border patrols to illegally enter Tel Aviv and go to gay bars; his conservative family doesn't know about his sexual orientation. It's this way that he meets Roy, a handsome Israeli lawyer working at his well-connected father's law firm, and the two instantly hit it off. Nimr initially receives a student visa that would enable him to visit Tel Aviv once a week to take a course. However, the honeymoon is soon over for the young couple, when Israeli security forces attempt to blackmail Nimr by threatening to reveal his sexuality to his family unless he collaborates with them. Given that his family - including a brother who's part of an extremist rebel movement - will clearly disown him (or worse) if they find out, Nimr is backed into a corner.

As the film progresses, Nimr's situation gets increasingly dark and dangerous, while Roy scrambles to pull any strings he can to help his lover but comes up short. In the third act, "Out" transitions into a thriller, as Nimr is on the run from Israeli authorities and the two lovers must decide how far they'll go to save him. It becomes more and more evident how appropriate the film's title is, as the situation the protagonists are in forces them to run and hide, keep their love literally and figuratively in the dark, rather than celebrate it.

Mayer has stated that while his film has political themes, it is far more personal than political, and this truth is a major strength of the film. Mayer and co-writer Yael Shafrir aren't out to send a political message or choose a side. They show the evil on both sides, as the focus is internal, on the struggle the couple goes through to stay together. The love story itself is incredibly heartwarming and tender, whether we're watching a steamy (yet tasteful) love scene between the two men, bonding about their childhoods, or Roy comforting Nimr over the horrible loss of a friend. And the chemistry between the two leads is off the charts, gluing us to the screen whenever they share it. This is crucial, because it ensures we've invested in the fate of this forbidden romance.

Mayer deserves a ton of credit for pulling off such an impressive directorial debut (this is his first feature film). While the film is very well made on the technical side, from cinematography to editing to music, I'll focus on the performances. Nicholas Jacob, a first-time actor, is a revelation as Nimr. He instantly creates an earnest, charming, likable protagonist, who evokes our sympathy more and more as his situation deteriorates. Shades of vulnerability, sadness and fear stir in Nimr's eyes as we watch this jaded young man try to hold on to what little hope he has. "Out" wouldn't be half the film it is if it wasn't for Jacob's powerful performance. Michael Aloni's role as Roy isn't as meaty, but he delivers as well, showing Roy's compassion and care for the man he was instantly smitten with. Roy's initial naïveté, believing Nimr's situation can be resolved by just going to the authorities, reflects his privileged well-connected background, so very different from his lover's. Later in the film, however, it is replaced by desperation at the couple's seemingly untenable predicament, and then by determination to do whatever it takes to help Nimr – Aloni pulls off all of these beats.

The film ends on a dark, but ambiguous note, which I found appropriate. A crowd-pleasing happy ending would have been unrealistic under the circumstances. But given the heart and tenderness of the film, keeping hope alive in the end was the right choice in my opinion. I appreciate that Mayer and Shafrir didn't go for a full-blown tragic ending.

Romeo and Juliet stories might seem like a worn-out genre, but when done well, I believe that love fighting against all odds is still a tale worth telling. "Out" is not a film for gay people or "leftists". It's not about homophobia or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It's about love and the desperate fight it must put up to survive in a world ruled by hate.
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mistergrey-774-68697225 August 2013
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. Every performance was totally convincing, from the very natural and relaxed love scenes to the emotional and dramatic scenes demanded by the plot. There was no editorial prejudice regarding the gay relationship or the political situation; it was a love story, a family drama and a political thriller all in one - and every aspect was handled with intelligence and sensitivity.

I liked the use of darkness to illustrate the clandestine relationship and some of the more devious aspects of the plot, and I found it fascinating to see the difference between the families and homes of the two lovers.

I found this movie by turns moving and exciting, and it was wonderful to see some truly great acting from a cast of relative unknowns. My film of the year so far.
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terrific and moving film
vauxtc23 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I thought this was a powerful and heartbreaking film. Powerful because of the dramatic storyline and the performances of all the leads and heartbreaking because of the tragic situations which exist in the Middle East where for some just existing is a struggle and being gay is life threatening. And once again government abuse is rife through the Israeli security service behaviour or through the behaviour of the self appointed thugs on the Palestinian side. The script was strong with believable dialogue. And the film interestingly doesn't take sides. The ending left the possibility of a sequel which I gather is a real possibility.
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Touching, tender and tense
angrymonkeys8524 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When Nimr, a Palestinian student, sneaks across the border into Tel Aviv he meets Israeli lawyer Roy in a nightclub. Despite an initial hesitation on Nimr's part, the two meet again and quickly fall in love. However, despite their burgeoning romance, the two must face the fact that Nimr is caught between a rock and a hard place - unable to be openly gay in Palestine and unable to live with Roy in Tel Aviv due to the political situation.

Set against a backdrop of personal and political tensions, 'Out in the Dark' is a beautiful and tender piece of film-making which, while setting itself within the Israel/Palestine conflict, avoids being preachy or overly-political.

With the exception of one slightly heavy-handed subplot involving Nimr's brother, the film chooses not to delve too deeply into the Middle Eastern conflict, instead focusing on how it affects those who are born into it and cannot escape or evade their backgrounds.

The two leads, played by Israelian actor Michael Aloni and relative newcomer Nicholas Jacob, are utterly compelling and will leave audiences wanting the two to succeed despite knowing that, in all likelihood, their romance is doomed.

The cinematography is also excellent; often filmed digitally and using only natural and available light sources, the film is lent a gritty, moody and bleak tone which only adds to the film's realism and atmosphere. It also, in the film's third act, helps to heighten the frenetic and tense pacing as the two lovers race to find a way to stay together while avoiding the forces which would tear them apart.

'Out in the Dark' is a moody and atmospheric debut feature from director Michael Mayer which transcends the 'LGBT film' genre to provide a gripping thriller and an engaging love story.
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The love to die for
Gordon-1114 February 2014
"Out in the Dark" tells the extraordinary love story of a Palestinian student and an Israeli lawyer. They fight against all odds , crossing all boundaries and societal rules just for love. Words cannot describe how dramatic and emotional the film really is.

The film starts off light hearted, with the two guys meeting and hitting it off. They enjoy a good time until the painful reality starts to strike. How are they going to maintain a relationship that is separated by societal, cultural and geographical barriers? The development of the story is very well done. I feel for all the characters. I feel their pain and their sorrows. It is unusual for a gay film to touch on tough topics such as prosecution, espionage and the constant threat of death, and "Out in the Dark" does it in outstanding style. The second half of the film maintains constant thrill and urgency. I could hardly catch my breath most of the time.

The prosecution, blackmailing and surveillance portrayed in "Out in the Dark" would be unbelievably contrived in other films, but it is so believable in this context. It is because of these very harsh conditions that make Nimr and Roy's love even more precious. It is the type of love to die for. I was in synchrony and resonance with the Nimr and Roy. I was so touched by their love and dedication for each other. Just by typing these, my eyes well up again.

"Out in the Dark" is an outstanding film. I think it is a must watch, and I will check out more Israeli films when I have the chance.
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One of the finest gay themed films out there...
Jani Ahonen8 January 2014
When I began watching this movie I didn't know anything about the story, I just knew it was a gay themed film. I will say that I have seen a great number of gay themed films so my only reference in this genre isn't the classic Brokeback Mountain everyone always praises about (which in my opinion is barely an average gay themed film, there are much better films out there that are less known). Out in the Dark belongs now to my Top 5 gay themed films and here are the reasons.

This film represents the reality and how gay people are seen and treated in Palestine/Israel. If you thought that in western culture being accepted as a gay person was a difficult process, it is million times harder if you happen to born in Palestine. This film isn't trying to be "the best film of the year" nor it doesn't have the most "intelligent" storyline, but it is about showing how things can differ from our (western) way of experiencing and seeing things. Out in the Dark takes the viewer to a trip to the streets of Palestine/Israel and shows those moments most Hollywood screenwriters would not add to the screenplay since they are not what the "screenwriting manual" tells you to write. This is also what makes this film so appealing; you are following a journey of a person as it happens, aka "live", without any editing tricks or plot twists taking place all over the film. During the film I was constantly thinking how this could end and if the film can retain that level of intensity during the whole film, it means the film is well-made. At the end Out in the Dark is a film about love and how strong love can be between two people regardless of their sex. The ending will certainly divide people whether they like it or not, but I would have personally loved to see more, but I will not tell more since I would otherwise spoil it for you.

Out in the Dark shouldn't really be compared to films like Brokeback Mountain since this has a completely different narrative mindset as a film. Brokeback Mountain is a classic Hollywood polished love story just made with well-known actors and a director, but I personally feel that Brokeback Mountain gets praised more than it should. Films like Shelter (2007) and Just a Question of Love (2000) are million times better than Brokeback Mountain and I would recommend them anytime for anyone who wishes to see a well-done gay themed film. Even though by itself Out in the Dark isn't in my opinion as good as these two I just mentioned, it is still best gay themed film when it comes to this type of films; films which represent reality as it appears in a current day. Brokeback mountain is simply a reality sugared with all possible drama elements when in Out in the Dark the main thing is not to go through the "beginning, middle and end", it's the part of the journey one person must take to survive.
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A humanistic film
ddmehrabian74 April 2014
The film looks at the issue of homosexuality in a very humanistic way. It should be appreciated. "Out in Dark" also targets this very important matter that ordinary and innocent people are the main victims of political conflicts between the government. And also various governmental or militia agents who try to prevent two persons for loving each other instead of solving the main problems of the country.

Hopefully this film will have some effect in the Arab world which is quite harsh with homosexuals. It's quite sad that the mother of the younger gay in the film even does not want to talk to his son over the phone just because he is gay.

In General I think the film is a "must see".
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