It’s June, which means it’s LGBTQ Pride Month! This is a time to celebrate people of all sexual orientations and genders. Here at AFMI, we are of course celebrating by watching movies. People are often surprised to learn that queer Arab films and filmmakers openly exist, but they most certainly do and this misconception makes it all the more important that we acknowledge and celebrate them. To celebrate Pride, we have compiled a list of Arab films that tackle the stories and experiences of LGBTQIA people. This list is presented in chronological order and is updated annually!
Feature Narrative Films
The Road to Love (2001) dir. Rémi Lange
France / Drama / 70 min
This romantic-kitsch story goes from Paris to Marseille, from Amsterdam to Morocco via Jean Genet’s grave in Larache, and on to Tangiers. The movie tells the story of an Algerian-French heterosexual young man beginning a sociology study of gay islamic homosexualities and discovering gay love with a young French steward.
The Road to Love is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
I Can’t Think Straight (2008) dir. Shamim Sharif
United Kingdom / Drama, Romance / 82 min
This romance story, which is originally based on a book by the same name, follows Tala, a London-based Palestinian woman who is planning an elaborate wedding back in the Middle East. She meets Leyla, a British Indian woman who is dating her best friend. They are complete opposites but they find themselves totally attracted to each other, regardless. Despite the clear attraction, Tala cannot accept the implications of choosing to stay with Leyla so she flees back to Jordan. Leyla is insistent that she wants to continue to be with Tala, despite the objections from her very traditional family. As Tala’s wedding day approaches, she feels the pressure to be true to herself and must make a decision about the path her life will take.
All My Life (2008) dir. Maher Sabry
Egypt / Drama, Romance / 119 min
For Rami, all is well in the world, just as long as he keeps to himself. He is 26, living in Cairo, working as an accountant, studying dancing and dating a man named Waleed. But when Waleed suddenly dumps him to marry a woman, Rami must face the reality of life as a gay man in Egypt. All of this comes at a time of a major crackdown on gay men and the notorious Queen Boat arrests of 2001. Rami finds himself spiraling downward before finally hitting rock bottom. Watch the trailer.
The String (2009) dir. Mehdi Ben Attia
Tunisia / Drama, Romance / 93 min
This film tells the story of Malik, a tall, quiet 30-year old Parisian architect who moves home to Tunisia after his father passes away. Back at home with his overbearing mother, he finds himself pressured to stay in Tunisia and get married. The combination of being back in his hometown, this pressure from his mother and his homosexuality causes him to have frequent panic attacks. He finds calm only when he meets Balil, a handsome handyman. They begin a relationship but find it complicated by religion, class consciousness and Malik’s mother.
Out Loud (2011) dir. Same Daboul
Lebanon / Drama, Comedy, Romance / 102 min
This film is a powerful and bittersweet tale of friendship and love in Lebanon, a nation that has been plagued by civil war for decades and where nontraditional relationships and ideas are reacted to with violence and hatred. Jason, an innocent young Lebanese man, befriends five free spirited young wanderers, who, like himself, are lost between traditional morals and their new generation beliefs in what is truly right. Their taboo alliances and out-loud statements result in tragedy and heartache, but in the end their commitment to one another and to a life of tolerance and equality allow them to persevere with the hope of creating a world in which bigotry and discrimination are a thing of the past. Out Loud is the first film from Lebanon with a gay theme that sets a new standard for cinema from the Middle East in the midst of the Arab Spring.
My Brother the Devil (2012) dir. Sally El Hosaini
United Kingdom / Drama / 111 min
In this drama from Sally El Hosaini, two teenage brothers named Mo and Rashid (AKA Rash), who are of Egyptian descent and live with their parents in Hackney, find themselves tangled up in the dark world of drugs and gangs. Rash is a low level drug dealer who uses his earnings to pay for small luxuries for them while fiercely protecting his younger brother. But Mo wants to be like Rash and follows in his footsteps into a world that is far from glamorous. As their situation quickly goes from bad to worse, Rash dreams of finding his way out of the gang. He is eventually offered a “clean” job as a photography assistant for his friend Sayyid. He and Sayyid begin to get close and strike up an intimate relationship that makes Mo jealous and angry and pushes Mo deeper into gang life while pushing the brothers further and further apart. The film is not currently available online but it can be purchased on DVD & Blu-ray. Watch the trailer.
Salvation Army (2013) dir. Abdellah Taïa
Morocco / Drama / 81 min
Abdellah, a young gay man, is trying to find his way through the difficult sexual, political and racial climate of Morocco. He is part of a large family with a distant father, a demanding mother, an older brother he looks up to, and some predatory older men, all in a society that doesn’t recognize or support his sexuality. He eventually decides to move away to Geneva for college and though he finds new found freedoms in Switzerland, he must come to terms with the loss of his homeland.
Hidden Away (2014) dir. Mikel Rueda
Spain / Drama / 96 min
At the age of 14 the world around you changes at a dizzying speed. But what if actually it’s you that is changing? What if these changes take you away from what up until now, has been your world? Ibrahim and Rafa are going to suffer these changes for themselves, experiencing first love in a way they never could have imagined. And having to keep it hidden away.
In Between (2016) dir. Maysaloun Hamoud
Palestine / Drama / 103 min
In Maysaloun Hamoud’s directorial debut, she tells the story of three Palestinian women living in Israeli society struggling with being accepted and deviating from the expectations of their culture. Lalia (Mouna Hawa), Salma (Sana Jammelieh), and Nur (Shaden Kanboura) are roommates living in Tel Aviv. Lalia, a criminal lawyer who likes to party after work, has found love with a modern Muslim man who can’t quite accept all sides of her. Salma, a DJ and bartender faces a difficult moment as she comes out as gay to her traditional Christian family. Nur is a college student who observes Islamic tradition and moves in with Lalia and Salma to be close to the university. When her conservative fiancé visits, however, he is threatened by her liberal roommates, and pressures her to move back to marry him immediately. All three women must learn how to accept themselves in the face of mounting pressure from their loved ones to conform.
The Beach House (2016) dir. Roy Dib
Lebanon / Drama / 75 min
The Beach House is a film about four people from an Arab generation roaming over the ruins of ideologies, causes and virtues of their predecessors. It portrays their intellectual and emotional nonchalance about what is happening around them in their daily lives and relationships. In a house whose architecture is a sixties’ experiment in mixing modern and Islamic architecture, a stone and concrete cube suspended over a rocky shore bashed by the waves of the Mediterranean, by famed Iraqi architect Refaat Chaderji, we spend a night with four characters whose non-stop conversations and peculiar actions reflect the void and chaos they are living in.
Chronic (2017) dir. Mohamed Sabbah
Lebanon / Drama / 89 min
Beirut is a city where any person can experience loss at any moment. Walid lost his hope for love. May couldn’t say goodbye to her lover. He died in the sea. Antoine was about to lose his own life. Omar a photographer lost his male lover in an explosion. He casts the three and invites them to his studio, and together they express stories of sex, love and trauma in the city of Beirut. Visitor after visitor, chapter after chapter, Omar loses control and provokes danger. Chronic is available on DVD from mec film. Watch the trailer.
Martyr (2017) dir. Mazen Khaled • AFF 2018
Lebanon / Drama / 84 min
The strange drowning of a young man at Beirut’s seaside sparks a mob funeral and causes his friends, who hail from different communities, to grapple with loss and with the struggle to participate in his community’s rites and ceremonies. The life and death journey that the young man takes on the last day of his life exposes the schisms of the city and the fault lines dividing its society, and reveals some of the forces pushing the lives of those marginalized young men. In Islamic tradition, drowning is considered grounds for Martyrdom. What does that word really mean? Is it an effort to console a bereaved family and preclude its grief? Is it an empty attempt by a marginalized group to evoke heroism and mythology in order to compensate in death for what they never achieved in life? In this film, raw verité images intermingle with abstract scenes to present us with a world where the lines separating reality from fiction, authenticity from fabrication, have ceased to exist.
The Wedding (2018) dir. Sam Abbas
United States / Drama, Romance / 75 min
Rami, a young Muslim man, is preparing for his wedding with Sara while fulfilling a queer sexuality in secret due to a strict religious and cultural upbringing. Watch the trailer.
Label Me (2019) dir. Kai Kreuser • AFF 2019
Germany / Drama / 60 min
Waseem is a Syrian gay-for-pay hustler seeking refuge in Cologne. For him the rules are very clear – No kissing. No passive penetration. When Lars pays him for sex there’s a mutual understanding that Waseem’s “just in it for the money.” On the one side a refugee living in a shelter trying to eke out a living and on the other the wealthy German with a loft apartment – the differences between the two couldn’t be more apparent and yet both are connected by a sincere interest in each other. Their relationship is rooted in a constant flux between dominance and longing for closeness which unfolds amidst a playful power struggle revealing their inability to hide their fears and longings from one another and their failure to keep up their carefully constructed facades. While both struggle to uphold the labels in their head, their growing friendship starts to pose a real threat within the reality of Waseem’s refugee shelter.
Breaking Fast (2020) dir. Mike Mosallam
United States / Drama / 93 min
Set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood, Breaking Fast is a romantic comedy that follows Mo, a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak. When an All-American guy named Kal offers to join him in his nightly Iftars – the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan – meal after meal, the two start to discover they have more in common than meets the eye. Breaking Fast is available to stream or rent on Hulu, AppleTV and Amazon Prime.
Agate mousse (2021) dir. Selim Mourad • AFF 2021
Lebanon / Drama, Experimental / 68 min
A visit to a cosmetic-surgery clinic and the discovery of a lump in his testicle and an abscess in his mouth confront filmmaker Selim Mourad with transience and decay in this unashamedly navel-gazing film essay. The film was part of the Official Selection at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021. Watch the trailer as well as our talkback with filmmaker Selim Mourad here.
Alia’s Birth (2021) dir. Sam Abbas
United States / Drama / 66 min
A rocky relationship between a female couple forces them to spend the night apart. Watch the trailer.
Perfect Strangers (2022) dir. Wissam Smayra
Lebanon / Drama / 97 min
A dinner party unravels when a tight group of friends agree to leave their phones unlocked on the table, exposing juicy interactions and dark secrets. This film is only available on Netflix MENA at this time but you can set a reminder to be notified when it’s available on Netflix US!
Shall I Compare You To a Summer’s Day? (2022) dir. Mohammad Shawky Hassan
Egypt / Drama, Musical / 66 min
Romantic encounters, haunting memories, pop music and folktales all intersect in a metafictional audiovisual essay. ‘Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?’ is a genre-bending project that explores the ways in which a queer lover’s discourse could emerge from traditional modes of storytelling and various registers of language deeply rooted in Arab popular culture. This film had it’s world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2022.
The Blue Caftan (2022) dir. Maryam Touzani
Morocco / Drama / 118 min
Halim and Mina run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with the commands of the demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband is moved by the presence of the young man. This film premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard program.
Feature Documentary Films
I Exist (2003) dir. Peter Barbosa & Garret Lenoir
United States / Documentary / 60 min
A documentary by Peter Barbosa and Garrett Lenoir, I Exist gives a voice to gay and lesbian Americans from the Middle East, who often remain silent out of shame and fear. This film interviews a number of young people and their families and allows them to share their experiences combating the negative stereotypes that revolve around both their sexuality and ethnicity. This film won Best Documentary at NewFest: New York’s LGBT Film Festival in 2003.
A Jihad for Love (2007) dir. Parvez Sharma
USA, UK, France, Germany, Australia / Documentary / 81 min
Filmed in 12 countries and 9 languages, this documentary, directed by gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma, tells the colorful and varied stories of gay and lesbian Muslims from all over the world. It explores the complex intersections of religion and sexuality and the concept of a greater personal Jihad, the true definition of which is “an inner struggle” or “to strive in the path of God”. This film was awarded the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary 2009 and it is part of First Run Features’ “The Human Rights Watch Collection”.
I Am Gay and Muslim (2012) dir. Chris Belloni
Morocco, Netherlands / Documentary / 59 min
This intimate documentary follows a number of young Moroccan gay men in their exploration of their religious and sexual identity. The men portrayed in the film openly share their personal experiences and talk about the ambiguity and secretiveness of the life they feel condemned to live, although some have openly acknowledged their sexual orientation. Watch the trailer.
e muet (2013) dir. Corine Shawi
Lebanon, France / Documentary / 52 min
Nanou’s first true love story comes to an abrupt end. Rajwa treads carefully into a monogamous relationship. From 2008 to 2013, I accompanied them through their stories of passion and anguish, carrying with them their determination to arrive at the heart of things: to enter the hidden crevices of love, to uncover truth, all for the ever-elusive goal of understanding the essence of their own complex personalities. I entered their world to find answers to my own questions, to use their lives as my lens into discovering new forms of love. I stand at the intersection of friendship, love and seduction, unable to express the extent of my fascination for these women. Watch the trailer.
Oriented (2015) dir. Jake Witzenfield
Palestine / Documentary / 86 min
Oriented follows the lives of three gay Palestinian men who live in Tel Aviv. Throughout the film, they must confront both their national and sexual identities. The film stars Khader, a Tel Aviv “darling” from a well-known Muslim mafia family who lives with his Jewish boyfriend David and their dalmatian Otis. It also stars Fadi, a Palestinian nationalist who falls in love with an Israeli man, and Naim a man who must come out to his family about his sexuality. The three friends form a group called “Qambuta” that is a non-violent, cultural resistance movement that fights for gender and national equality. This film won the Esperluette Award for Best Documentary at the Rencontres In&Out festival in 2016.
A Sinner in Mecca (2015) dir. Parvez Sharma
Saudi Arabia / Documentary / 79 min
For a gay filmmaker, filming in Saudi Arabia presents two serious challenges: filming is forbidden in the country and homosexuality is punishable by death. For filmmaker Parvez Sharma, however, these were risks he had to assume as he embarked on his Hajj pilgrimage, a journey considered the greatest accomplishment and aspiration within Islam, his religion. On his journey Parvez aims to look beyond 21st-century Islam’s crises of religious extremism, commercialism and sectarian battles. He brings back the story of the religion like it has never been told before, having endured the biggest jihad there is: the struggle with the self.
A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile (2015) dir. Sophie Deraspe
Canada / Documentary / 84 min
There is no indication that this typical online flirtation between two strangers would turn into a case of shocking international intrigue. For months, Sandra in Montreal and Amina, a Syrian-American, bond romantically and intellectually. Encouraged by Sandra, Amina launches a blog called “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” representing a marginalized voice in the Middle East on politics, religion, and sexuality. Rapidly garnering worldwide attention, Amina becomes something of a star blogger. But when Syria enters the Arab uprising of 2011, Sandra receives word that Amina has been kidnapped, and soon the search for Amina becomes a global concern and an even larger mystery to solve. Watch the trailer.
Out of Iraq: A Love Story (2016) dir. Chris McKim & Eva Orner
Iraq, USA / Documentary / 81 min
In 2004, Ramadi was the most dangerous place on earth and the last place anyone would expect to find love. But that’s what happened between an Iraqi translator Nayyef who works for the US and Btoo a solider in the Iraq army. They face persecution, and possibly death, if they stay in their homeland. After obtaining a visa, Nayyef leaves his love behind, settling in Seattle with a determination to one day reunite with Btoo in a place where they can express their love freely and without fear. Out of Iraq is available to watch on WOW. Watch the trailer.
This Little Father Obsession (2016) dir. Selim Mourad
Lebanon / Hybrid Documentary / 93 min
Selim’s sister has passed, making him the last child of his family. At a time when the traditional family house is set for demolition, he faces his parents with his sexuality and tried to convey meaning to his existence. Watch the trailer.
Upon the Shadow (2017) dir. Nada Mezni Hafaiedh
Tuisia / Documentary / 80 min
This documentary follows the life of former Femen member Amina Sboui and the community of LGBTQ friends she houses in her Tunisian home. Offering unparalleled insight into life following the Arab spring, social persecution, and political struggle, from a queer perspective. The film dives into the stories of Amina’s strong and enchanting group of LGBTQ loves and comrades: Sandra, Ramy, Ayoub and Atef, as they bond and build queer community against a backdrop of global trauma and struggle.
Room for a Man (2017) dir. Anthony Chidiac
Lebanon / Documentary / 77 min
This biographical documentary follows the filmmaker, Anthony Chidiac, a young man who shares a Beirut apartment with his mother and pet dog. In the film, he sets about reconstructing his identity by renovating his bedroom. But as the male construction workers come and go in the freshly embattled household, new questions, old arguments and unexpected passions get stirred. Watch the trailer.
Here I Am…Here You Are (2017) dir. Raed Rafei • AFF 2017
Lebanon / Documentary / 68 min
Raed Rafei’s film unfolds as a virtual road trip navigating between Italy and Lebanon. Conditioned to live in a long-distance relationship with his partner because of strict European visa regulations, the director patches together the moments shared together in an attempt to create a possible day-to-day reality for their couple. Watch the trailer and read our interview with Raed Rafei!
Kelet (2020) dir. Susani Mahadura
Finland / Documentary / 54 min
Kelet is a young Somali trans woman who dreams of becoming a Vogue model. Leaving her family in Manchester to return to her childhood home in Finland, she draws on the support of her friends in the Vogue community to immerse herself in Helsinki’s glamour. Watch this shy and courageous young woman build a new life for herself, face her fears and her past, and succeed in following her dreams. Kelet is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube.
Make sure to also check out our conversation with director Susani Mahadura and Kelet on YouTube.
The Art of Sin (2020) dir. Ibrahim Mursal
Norway, Sudan / Documentary, Biography / 58 min
After coming to Norway as a refugee, Ahmed Umar has become a renowned artist. Proud of his roots, his art mixes Sudanese and western influences. In 2015, he came out as gay on Facebook, making him the first openly gay man from Sudan, this causes a massive outrage in the Sudanese community. Watch the trailer.
Miguel’s War (2021) dir. Eliane Raheb
Lebanon, Germany, Spain / Documentary, Biography / 128 min
In this portrait that is multi-layered both in terms of form and content, a gay man confronts the ghosts of his past and explores hidden longings, unrequited love and tormenting feelings of guilt. Miguel was born in 1963 to a conservative, Catholic Lebanese father and an authoritarian mother from a wealthy Syrian family. Numerous conflicts over his national, religious and sexual identity compelled him to flee to Spain in his early twenties. In post-Franco Madrid where he lived an openly gay existence, his life resembled one long Almodóvarian orgy, full of excess and sexual taboo-breaking. This was followed first by a collapse and then a new beginning. After fleeing war and repression 37 years ago, Miguel returns to Lebanon. In a mixture of re-enactments, animation, soul-searching interviews and archive material, the filmmaker and the filmed join forces to dissect old traumas and emotional injuries and explore possibilities of catharsis via a brand of self-scrutiny that holds nothing back. This film was part of the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival. Watch the trailer.
Fiasco (2021) dir. Nicolas Khoury
Lebanon / Personal Documentary / 70 min
For half of his life Nicolas, the director, used the camera as confidant to film his video diary. This intimate film shows the strong and, at time, dysfunctional relationship that binds Nicolas to his mother and sister after the death of his father. His sister gets married and moves away from home leaving the mother face to face with her son. But Nicolas is carrying a fear that she knows nothing about. Watch the trailer.
Zip It (2021) dir. Anicée Gohar
Egypt / Documentary, Biography / 58 min
Zip It exposes the challenges a creative and eccentric young man can face in a society where anything unconventional is controversial. Following the out-of-the-ordinary yet ordinary life of Egyptian “fashion designer of the moment” Mohanad Kojak, the film shows the resilience it takes to be successful in today’s Cairo. Watch the trailer.
Sirens (2022) dir. Rita Baghadadi
Lebanon / Documentary, Music / 78 min
True to their name, Slave to Sirens — the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East — are utterly magnetic. Amid a backdrop of political unrest and the heartbreaking unraveling of Beirut, five bandmates form a beacon of expression, resistance, and independence. Director Rita Baghdadi follows founders and guitarists Lilas Mayassi and Shery Bechara as their tenderness, and sometimes bitterness, for one another grows in ways both unexpected and deeply moving. Joined by vocalist Maya Khairallah, bassist Alma Doumani, and drummer Tatyana Boughaba, these women negotiate their emotional journeys through young adulthood in tumultuous circumstances with grace, raw passion, and a ferocious commitment to their art. Their grit is tested as they grapple with the complexities of friendship, sexuality, and the destruction around them.
Beirut…Hide and Seek (2011) dir. Darine Hotait
Lebanon / Drama / 35 mins
In 1982 Beirut, the war, up to that point political, becomes an internal family struggle when Jamila discovers her brother’s secret queer relationship with his friend Omar.
Mondial 2010 (2014) dir. Roy Dib • AFFC 2020
Lebanon / Experimental / 19 min
Mondial 2010 is a film about love and place. A gay Lebanese couple decides to take a road trip to Ramallah. They chronicle their journey and record it with their camera. The viewer is invited into the couple’s conversations and into the universe of a fading city.
The Great Safae (2014) dir. Randa Maroufi
France / Experimental Documentary / 16 min
The Great Safae is a fictional, experimental documentary inspired by a real person. Referred to as ‘The Great Safae’, she was a transgender woman who spent part of her life working as a domestic servant for the director’s family. Throughout this time, her ‘true’ sexual identity eluded everyone in the house. Based on this ambiguity, Maroufi re-imagines ‘Safae’ as she goes through her daily routine, working in the house and changing from male to female. The film stylistically weaves in snippets of conversation from various members of the family about social views on gender behavior. The Great Safae is a story of interchanging realities. Watch the trailer.
I Say Dust (2015) dir. Darine Hotait
United States / Drama / 15 mins
Two Arab-American women in New York City fall in love, argue home and identity, engage in a chess battle, and express themselves through the power of the spoken word.
I Say Dust is available to rent on Vimeo On Demand.
Time to Come (2016) dir. Sam Abbas
United States / Drama / 14 mins
Left alone, Rami must decide if his love for Lee is strong enough to come out as a gay Muslim.
Half a Life (2017) dir. Tamara Shogaolu
Egypt / Animated Documentary / 12 min
After a traumatic encounter, a young, gay Egyptian joins the LGBT rights movement. When his safety is jeopardized, he must choose whether to stay in the country he loves or seek asylum elsewhere as a refugee. Half a Life is a timely story of activism and hope, set in the increasingly dangerous, oppressive, and unstable social climate of Egypt today. This film is part of Queer in a Time of Forced Migration, an animated transmedia series that follows the stories of LGBTQ refugees from Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia across continents and cultures.
Half a Life is available to watch on Kanopy.
Ablution (2017) dir. Omar Al Dakheel • AFFC 2020
United States / Drama / 15 min
Brothers (2018) dir. Mike Mosallam • AFF 2019
United States / Drama / 9 min
Brothers is a coming-of-age short film-music video hybrid that follows a Muslim Arab boy as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Upon recognizing that he is different through the lens of his family and society as a whole, he decides to face his fears with the support of an older brother who stands by him and encourages him to be himself, in the face of bias and adversity.
Life In Darkness (2018) dir. Ali Raheem
Iraq / Drama / 8 min
Laith, a 22 year old male wakes up on his birthday in Mosul, Iraq, only to have problems with his boyfriend, Mohanad a 27 year old male. Mohanad believes that Laith is cheating on him with a girl and a fight erupts as Mohanad storms out of the apartment only to rush back as he sees ISIS have taken over the city and raid the apartment block.
Life in Darkness is available to stream for free on AudPop.
3 Centimetres (2018) dir. Lara Zeidan • AFF 2018
Lebanon / Drama, Comedy / 9 min
In the oldest fun park of Beirut, four young friends go on a Ferris Wheel. During this claustrophobic open-air journey, they touch on intimate subjects such as relationships and sex, but Suzie’s breakup advice for Joanna leads to an unexpected confession. Check out our interview with Lara Zeidan as well! Watch the trailer.
Run(a)way Arab (2018) dir. Amrou Al-Kadhi
United Kingdom / Drama / 12 min
Nazeem is a 26 year old Middle Eastern drag queen who names herself Queen Za Dream – she is preparing for a show with the utmost gravity, with an outfit evocative of an Egyptian deity. Interwoven with this is the story of Nazeem as a genderqueer 8 year-old boy, and the close bond he has with his Iraqi-Egyptian mother, Halima. Whilst flamboyant and in many ways a drag queen herself on the surface, Halima is governed by the strict expectations of gender in Arab society. When a young Nazeem transgresses these boundaries, Halima reacts in a way that is utterly confusing to him. Only though his drag, is the adult Nazeem able to keep sacred the memories of his mother before this painful moment, and hold on to their connection. Run(a)way Arab is available to watch on Revry.
Son of a Dancer (2018) dir. Georges Hazim • AFF 2019
Lebanon / Drama / 20 min
Majed, a 20-year-old man, is grieving the loss of his recently deceased mother. One day, he gets the shock of his life when he learns that she used to be a belly dancer. Torn between his relationship with his now-silent father, and Hanine, the woman who will help him overcome his grief, he takes a trip down memory lane in an attempt to discover the mysterious past of his mother. Watch the trailer.
Dearborn Ash (2018) dir. Hena Ashraf • AFF 2019
United States / Drama / 9 min
Dearborn Ash takes place in the midst of the Arab-American enclave of Dearborn, Michigan, Roshan has moved back to her parents’ house in Metro Detroit after many failed years in NYC. With her OCD in overdrive she meets up with her old college friend Ayman during Ramadan. He disrupts their iftar plans, however, and Roshan finds herself having to deal with all sorts of characters who take over her car. The night turns out to be full of surprises – some annoying, and some wonderful.
Dearborn Ash is available to stream on Vimeo.
The Sun Will Rise (2018) dir. Mehdi Hajri
Tunisia / Drama / 36 min
Omar and Bahri, old friends who share their desires, troubles, and love, see their everyday life troubled by the arrival of a student, Sonia, ready to do anything to achieve her goals.
Another Dream (2019) dir. Tamara Shogaolu
Egypt / Animated Documentary VR / 20 min
Another Dream, a hybrid animated documentary and VR game, brings the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple to life. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands. An accompanying installation allows audiences to reflect on what they have seen, heard, and felt in VR. This film is also part of Queer in a Time of Forced Migration. Watch the trailer for Another Dream.
The final project is the series, The Call Me Asylum Seeker (2020), is a web-based interactive experience that follows four LGBTQ people from the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 to the migrant and refugee “crisis” in Europe today. Weaving together an audio documentary with stylized animations, interactive features allow audiences to explore chapters of the story at their own pace. Learn more about this piece here.
Marco (2019) dir. Saleem Haddad • AFF 2019
Lebanon, UK / Drama / 22 min
Omar has been living in London for a decade. He spends his days working in the City, and his nights ignoring phone calls from his family back in Lebanon. One evening, restless after another pleading voicemail from his mother, he reaches for his phone and invites over Marco, a Spanish student newly-arrived in London, who’s doing sex work to earn some extra cash. But when Marco arrives, Omar can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right about the young man. As their night together progresses truths are revealed, defenses are lowered, and Omar discovers the lengths that Marco has gone to reach London.
Marco is available to stream on YouTube.
The Last Paradise (2019) dir. Sido Lansari
Morocco, France / Drama / 14 min
This is the almost-true story of Sami. In Casablanca, he only dreams about dancing and Egyptian divas in the hairdressing salon where he works. Until the day he meets Daniel, a lover who helps him discover Paris in the midst of a gay revolution.
Ubuntu (2019) dir. Aqsa Altaf • AFFC 2020
United States / Drama / 16 min
Ubuntu is a coming-of-age story that follows best friends and star athletes, Hakeem & Darren, as they navigate the complexities of high school. When pushed to face their collective fears in social settings, the two friends realize that staying true to themselves and supporting one another is what matters the most. Watch the trailer.
Divine Rupture (2019) dir. Malak Mroueh
Lebanon / Drama / 20 min
Maya goes through electroshock conversion therapy and starts to hallucinate after her mother discovers her relationship with Dana.
Divine Rupture can be watched for free here.
What’s Left of Home (2019) dir. Antoine Maksoudian • AFFC 2020
Lebanon / Drama / 17 min
Would you keep your loved one next to you no matter what or let them go if it’s for their own good? When Josef, a closeted Lebanese guy in his mid-twenties gets a job abroad, his life is put into perspective.
What’s Left of Home is available to rent on Vimeo.
Barzakh (2020) dir. Karina Dandashi • AFFC 2020
United States / Drama / 13 min
Living in a dystopian future where the U.S. government is sending refugees and undocumented immigrants to a recently colonized Mars, a Syrian refugee misses her deportation launch and makes a musical connection with a local DJ.
Check out our conversation with filmmaker Karina Dandashi on YouTube.
Faraway (2020) dir. Aziz Zoromba
Canada / Documentary / 18 min
After being estranged from his family for his homosexuality, we observe a young Arab man over four seasons and from far away as he navigates his solitude – all the while attempting to reconnect with his mother. Watch the trailer.
Versailles (2020) dir. Hyun Lories
Belgium / Drama / 20 min
Feeling out of place among her girlfriend’s family, Sanaa returns to her home neighborhood in the hope of reconnecting with her younger sister, Rana. While an old connection tries to reinsert himself into Sanaa’s life, the two sisters plan a trip to the seaside.
Polygraph (2020) dir. Samira Saraya
Palestine / Drama / 20 min
Based on a true story, Yasmine, an openly lesbian Arab nurse living in Tel Aviv, finds out that her lover Or, an intelligence officer in the Israeli army, has been reporting on their relationship. Their liaison is further strained by the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict and by Yasmine’s sister’s visit, who arrives from the West Bank not knowing that she is going to meet the occupying enemy at her own sister’s house.
Polygraph is currently available to watch as part Dedza Films’ “Who Will Start the Fire” anthology and is available to rent on KinoNow.
Edible (2020) dir. Kandis Golden
United States / Psychological Drama / 17 min
Secrets come to light when Celeste and her girlfriend Sara try an edible marijuana cookie. Watch the trailer.
1-1 (2020) dir. Naures Sager
Sweden / Comedy / 7 mins
Ayman’s sex date with Jonas gets crashed by the friends Amirah and Samir which takes a positive turn. Watch the trailer.
Bellydance Vogue (2020) dir. Hadi Moussally
Lebanon / Experimental Documentary / 5 mins
My birthday was on the 3rd of April 2020 and for the first time, I celebrated it by myself. That’s why I wanted to send you a film “Bellydance Vogue” that I did in the confinement filmed while quarantined using a VHS app and combining it with archive films that I have from the 80-90s
Bellydance Vogue is available to stream on YouTube.
Borekas (2020) dir. Saleh Saadi • AFF 2021
Palestine / Drama / 15 min
A father gives his son a ride to the airport. The car breaks down on the way. Watch the trailer.
Mariam (2021) dir. Reem Jubran • AFF 2021
United States / Drama / 13 min
Zaid, a young Arab-American amateur drag queen, has to confront his conservative father and ailing grandfather about his identity. Watch the trailer.
Check our conversation with filmmakers Saleh Saadi and Reem Jubran, live at the Roxie Theater In San Francisco during the 2021 Arab Film Festival.
Missing Piece (2021) dir. Nadim El Khoury• AFF 2021
Lebanon / Drama / 23 min
Carole, a fifty-year-old woman is battling dementia. Her son, Elio, left everything in order to take care of her. Together, they will relive some of the moments that shaped their family.
Courage (2021) dir. Malak Mroueh
Lebanon / Drama / 22 min
Courage is comprised of eight poetic acts written by Dayna Ash that tackle identity, freedom, and being queer in the Middle East—where the dominating discourse aims to dim and erase their existence. The “closet” is portrayed as a labyrinth of societal norms and traditions that bodies must navigate to survive, rendering coming out and the spectrum in-between as equally courageous acts.
Habib and The Thief (2021) dir. Naures Sager
Sweden / Drama, Comedy, Romance / 15 min
After being brought together by a stolen cape, Habib and his new love interest soon find themselves in a precarious situation, despite their attempts to play it safe. A look at the potential cost of being authentic and finding connection in a sometimes dangerous world.
Dress Up (2022) dir. Karina Dandashi
United States / Drama / 13 min
On the eve of her sister’s wedding, Karina brings her “best friend” home to meet the family. When the groom-to-be joins them, she is reminded of her family’s expectations and her queer anxieties begin to unravel in a film that blurs the line between fiction and reality.
Warsha (2022) dir. Dania Bdeir
Lebanon / Drama / 16 min
A Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut volunteers to cover a shift on one of the most dangerous cranes, where he is able to find his freedom. Watch the trailer.
The Window (2022) dir. Sarah Kaskas
A year after Beirut’s port explosion, Basma and Mariam reunite in their old bedroom. Surrounded by a view of the port’s remains, the two women attempt to resolve their shared trauma and broken relationship.
Yes, Goddess! (2022) dir. Randa Jarrar
United States / Drama, Comedy / 11 min
A group of queer femmes and their lovers gather at a kink party for the first time since 2019.
Beirut Dreams in Color (2022) dir. Michael Collins
Lebanon / Documentary, Music / 28 mins
A short documentary that tells the stories of Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese rock band with an outspoken gay singer, and Sarah Hegazy, an Egyptian activist. Both parties have experienced oppression because of their sexual orientation and beliefs. The film shows what it’s like for the LGBTQIA+ community to be oppressed and threatened by the governments in the Middle East.
Nidhal (2022) dir. Bassem Ben Brahim
Tunisia / Documentary / 10 mins
Between reality and animation, the story of Nidhal is told, a young homosexual Tunisian who defended individual freedoms in Tunisia through his work in radio. He found himself under a lot of pressure which forced him to leave the country and seek asylum in the Netherlands.
Check out our list on Letterboxd so you can all all these queer Arab films to your watchlist.
What are your thoughts on these films? Did we miss any of your favorite queer Arab films? What are you planning to watch? Let us know!