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n a time, when Islam is under tremendous attack-from within and without-'A Jihadfor Love' is a daring documentary-filmed in twelve countries and nine languages. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has gone where the silence is strongest, filming with great risk in nations where government permission to make this film was not an option. A Jihad for Love is the first-ever feature-length documentary to explore the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality. With unprecedented access and depth, Sharma brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims from countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, France, India, and South Africa. The majority of gay and lesbian Muslims must travel a lonely and often dangerous road. In many nations with a Muslim majority, laws based on Quranic interpretations are enforced by authorities to monitor, entrap, imprison, torture and even execute homosexuals. Even for those who migrate to Europe or North America and adopt Western ...Written by
I have read the above reviewers comments with interest. And I have just had the good fortune to see the remarkable documentary 'A Jihad for Love' at the Toronto International Film Festival. Having reviewed films for years, I know that I do have the qualifications necessary to write a full review of the film-but I postpone that till the film gets a theatrical release, which I believe the filmmaker and the producer(s) are seeking.
I post these observations as initial comments on the film.
In my twenty-five years of writing about documentary film-making I have rarely encountered films of the caliber of A Jihad for Love. It just so happens that in the last three weeks I have also been able to see 'Trembling Before G-d' and 'For the Bible Tells Me So'-a strange but interesting co-incidence because all three films deal with different aspects of the condemnation of homosexuality in the three primary monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Being of Jewish heritage myself (but primarily agnostic) I found the Jewish film to be pedestrian and extremely repetitive-a n immature work that has little cinematic merit. The subjects are not engaging and in fact frequently not likable and tend to 'whine' a lot. The quality of the film-making is pedestrian and repetition and boredom seem to be the two primary hallmarks for that film, which left me with more questions than answers and as a Jewish person-also made me feel a sense of complete alienation from the lives depicted in the film (Hasidic Jews being very much the minority in my religion). The Christianity film, adopts a familiar-formal and pedantic tone of talking head style interviews and certainly-neither its subjects nor its cinematic style lend themselves to any kind of cinematic craftsmanship whatsoever. However I must congratulate Mr. DuBowski on producing this eminently and far more superior work (as opposed to the earlier film he directed) with this next film, directed by first time filmmaker Parvez Sharma.
On the other hand, A Jihad for Love, deals with Islam, which has been a focus of our lives and the media for some time now. I approached the film with very little knowledge of that religion and found that the film lead me in unexpected ways, into the very core of the faith and enlightened me in ways I did not even know possible. This film has excellent production values, which lack in the other two and the film-making and storytelling of what seem to be very diverse subjects and geographic locations is superb. The narrative and the story arc seems to be hard to follow initially, but the clarity that emerges soon, is remarkable and deft. The film washes over you like a gentle breeze-even though you are constantly made aware of the dangers and the violence that lurks throughout. The individuals we meet only too briefly in the film are remarkable not just for their courage but in also the honesty with which they approach the camera. The thematic elements of weaving in celebration and despair are remarkable and the filmmaker successfully engages with a wide canvas of possible audience emotions. I thought the use of Bollywood imagery and Arab belly dancing was an act of sheer virtuosity and courage, knowing full well that images like that are the ones most likely to be condemned by a religion that commands austerity from its followers. What I also found remarkable was the multiplicity of languages in this poignant, powerful and elegant work. All of the characters speak to us with the help of sub-titles (which it takes some getting used to) but express themselves in the most eloquent ways. I wondered indeed if this is the language of their daily lives-when a young and compelling Iranian refugee sits atop a hill in Turkey and wonders out loud to his friends: Why does the sky have to be the same color for everyone?' What is also remarkable in this film is that the balance of characters concealing their identity with those showing their faces (like the gay' Imam' in South Africa) is almost equal and Mr. Sharma displays rare artistry and sensitivity in dealing with depicting invisibility keeping the visual medium in mind. (In 'Trembling' for example-a film that is very poorly shot in comparison, I found the use of a flower vase to hide the rather unlikable couple-Malka and Leah, ugly and claustrophobic).
In the business of truth telling and verite cinema, I find this film a refreshing lesson on how far documentary film-making can go if made with the care and the poetry that cinema affords us. Unfortunately in the age of reality television and hastily packaged sound bites and the polemics of many other films, we have few films of this remarkable construct and vision available to us. I look forward to viewing and reviewing this film again as it starts its journey. A small but extremely significant pearl-A Jihad for Love, I feel will be remembered by all those who see it, for a long time to come. This film demands that the audience engage with it and there is a lot of reading-so be warned to be sufficiently caffeinated for a highly rewarding intellectual and cinematic experience!
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