Aside from religious homophobia, the immigration issue is also at the forefront in Michael Mayer's Out in the Dark. Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is on the writer-director's mind, but I was reminded of I Do by Glenn Gaylord. A British man comes to New York but faces deportation back to the United Kingdom. Out in the Dark centers on a Palestinian who sneaks across the border to Tel Aviv but faces deportation back to the West Bank.
The Palestinian in question is Nimr Mashrawi, played by Nicholas Jacob. Nimr is a psychology student, hoping to go abroad, despite his family's objection. Nimr is gay but he's not allowed to be open about it in Ramallah, so he commutes back-and-forth to Tel Aviv in Israel where homosexuality is more accepted.
While Nimr commutes, there are some Palestinians who live in Tel Aviv. One of which is Nimr's friend, Mustafa, a man who is more flamboyant and more effeminate in his behavior. Because Mustafa is gay and can't be out in Palestine, the Israeli security can easily blackmail him with the threat of deportation into doing whatever it wants. Once Israeli security don't find Mustafa useful, it does deport him, kicking him out the country and making it known that he was working for them.
Nimr's brother Nabil is the most vocal about his anti-Semitism and homophobia. When Nabil learns about Mustafa, he has him beaten and killed. Nimr witnesses this and is horrified. He becomes scared because he knows that Nabil might do the same to him.
At the start, Nimr meets Roy Schaffer, played by Michael Aloni. Roy is an Israeli lawyer who is fair-haired and handsome. The rest of the movie is charting their romance. There's dinner. There's sex. There's meeting Roy's parents. There's even a sensual, swimming pool scene.
On its surface, there is the Israeli-Palestinian tension, but underneath Mayer gets at a feeling and universality regarding gay men not only in this area of the Middle East but also others, including Asia and Africa. First, there is fear of what one's family will do. The second is the anxiety over what one's status in his country will be.
Unfortunately, for Nimr, the worst case scenarios of each are realized. It gets to the point where the only option is for Nimr to flee the country or basically die. It may be extreme, but that's the reality that many, young, gay Palestinians face.
I couldn't help but think of Eytan Fox's The Bubble (2006), which was also about a gay romance between an Israeli and a Palestinian. Despite Fox's Romeo & Juliet-style ending, Fox has a brighter view of Tel Aviv and the country as whole. Given the title, it's not difficult to predict that Mayer's view is a bit darker. Mayer also has a higher level of dread or a more pervasive level of dread than Fox does, even more so than Fox's war drama Yossi & Jagger (2002).
In this movie, we see alienation and isolation, the very things that lead to the ruination of families and ultimately societies and cultures. It's easy to point to the number of refugees of people displaced by the kinds of violence recently witnessed in Syria, but this movie shines a light on the number of people displaced by homophobia and prejudice from places like Palestine.
Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.