This review can also be found on Shadowlocked, here.
The BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
is something I truly appreciate. It warms my heart to know that there
are actually plenty of films out there that star more than just straight
white men as protagonists; and it's a shame that they end up relegated
to a single, yearly event.
There were a huge number of films
showing this year, almost guaranteeing a wide range of experiences on
offer - but I only got to watch one in particular. Out in the Dark,
filmed in 2012 and directed by Michael Mayer.
plot is something rather simple. Nimer (Nicholas Jacob) is a
Palestinian student who, on a risky night out to an Israeli nightclub
meets Roy (Michael Aloni), an Israeli lawyer. Their love blossoms
rapidly, but severe social standards (and gun-happy police) get in the
way. More on the plot later.
From a technical perspective, the
film is incredibly solid. Film production norms differ from country to
country, so one of the fun things about foreign film is seeing the
different stylistic rules they go by.
The cinematography was
nothing to hugely fawn over, but the wide shots of the skyline and city
streets did wonders for a loser like me who is obsessively urban. The
dialogue style definitely stood out - lengthy chats pierced with
succinct one word sentences, in a blend of Hebrew and Arabic that's
sadly lost on my monolingual self.
The decision to have the plot
heavily focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a harrowing, but
well-researched one. It assumes you know the basics of the issue, and
although you can understand all of the story without prior knowledge,
being aware of the background definitely helps add context.
it also adds is a marginally fresher angle on what would otherwise be a
tired love story. Straight romances in films are rather rote, but gay
(male) ones are more so in a slightly different way.
lovers, one humble and sexually introverted, the other metropolitan and
liberated have their love halted by the grim face of systemic
oppression (feel free to imagine those two words in a 72pt font and on
fire). It's a valid story, but it's one told a little too often.
such, the racial conflict adds some flavour to the proceedings;
juxtaposing cute intimate moments and longing stares with border
crossers getting shot in the head.
It's all a very well-produced
reminder of the social injustices in the world, both sexual and racial -
but we know this all already. That is, the people who would be inclined
to see Out in the Dark in the first place. Dudebro McHomophobe would
definitely benefit from watching something so well made (and with such
impact, too), but you'd have a better chance of actually ending
oppression than getting him into the cinema.
It's all very
'preaching to the choir', really. That's not the end of the world - we
all like to have our political opinions re-enforced, but in the end I
ended up not enjoying Out in the Dark as much as I could have done – I
was holding out for something more experimental.
I continue to
wait for the action blockbuster where Jake Gyllenhaal saves Ben Whishaw
from an exploding building, and they make out to the sound of helicopter
blades and gunfire. Now that would be progressive.