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 updated annually!

Feature Narrative Films

Film still from Alexandria…Why?

Alexandria…Why? (1979) dir. Youssef Chahine

Egypt / Drama / 133 min

Amid the poverty, death, and suffering caused by World War II, 18-year-old Yehia retreats into a private world of fantasy and longing. Obsessed with Hollywood, he dreams of studying filmmaking in America but struggles to pursue his dream, given the constraints of his life in the middle class and the horrors of war. There are several subplots take place throughout the film, one being that of an aristocratic man who kidnaps a young British soldier and plans to kill him, but falls in love with him instead. The film is not currently available online but secondhand DVDs of the 2000 release of the film by Fox Lorber can easily be found online.

 

Film still from Anyab

Anyab (Fangs) (1981) dir. Mohamed Shebl

Egypt / Musical, Horror / 100 min

When Ali and Mona’s car breaks down on their way to a party, they head to the nearest house to make an emergency call, only to find out that they are at Dracula’s house.

 A lost gem of Egyptian queer cinema, Anyab is an unfaithful remake of the musical cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Although the story is apparently the same, Shebl’s film is almost too homoerotic to handle. Weaved into its camp aesthetics, horror genre tropes and 80s disco numbers, Anyab provides a running commentary on the social situation in Egypt, from youth unemployment to class struggle, while intersecting sexual politics into the mix. – Gasworks

Watch the film for free on the Internet Archive.

 

Man of Ashes (1986) dir. Nouri Bouzid

Tunisia / Drama / 109 min

In the ensuing days before his wedding bridegroom Hachemi faces both the anxieties of the future and the shadows of the past. His best friend, Farfat, is the topic of street graffiti and local gossip, which calls his manhood into question. This ripples out to affect Hachemi for, unbeknownst to anyone, as apprenticed youths they were molested by Ameur, the local carpenter. Farfat is banished from his father’s home and the shared secret between the two friends threatens to undo more than just the wedding, but their very lives. Watch the trailer.

 

Promo image for Civilized People

Civilized People (1999) dir. Randa Chahal Sabbag

Lebanon / Drama, Comedy / 97 min

During the civil war, many elites fled the country for safe harbor in Europe’s capitals, leaving behind apartments and villas in the care of domestic labor imported from Egypt, the Philippines and Sri-Lanka. These stories of survival have never been recorded, let alone inspired a fiction film. With scathing humor, Civilized People draws the portrait of a war-tormented Beirut neighborhood, at the mercy of the mood swings of a sniper. The plot weaves the tribulations of a Muslim militia fighter and a Christian maid, with the misadventures of a high-society lady who, undaunted by checkpoints and shelling, decides to fly back for a tryst with her lover, alongside a rich cast of characters including a comedic lesbian couple, played by actresses Myrna Maakaron and Carmen Lebbos. Available for free on Vimeo.

 

Film still from The Road to Love

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 stream for free on Xumo, The Roku Channel and Tubi or with a subscription on YouTube & Amazon Prime.

 

Film still from Caramel

Caramel (2007) dir. Nadine Labaki

Lebanon / Drama / 96 min

In a beauty salon in Beirut the lives of five women cross paths. The beauty salon is a colorful and sensual microcosm where they share and entrust their hopes, fears and expectations. While the film does not center queer stories, the character of Rima is clearly coded as a lesbian. In this time where there was not very much representation of LBGTQ stories in Arab media, her character was very important. You can read further analysis of this character and film in this great piece by Maria Abdel Karim entitled “Queer Representation in Middle Eastern Films“. This film is available to watch for free on Vimeo.

 

Film still from I Can’t Think Straight

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. It’s available to stream for free on Tubi and Sling TV or to rent from all major VOD platforms.

 

Film still from All My Life

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.

 

Film still from The String

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. It’s available to rent on Amazon.

 

Film still from Fissures

Fissures (2009) dir. Hicham Ayouch

Morocco / Drama / 75 min

When Abdelsellem gets out of prison, his friend Nourredine is waiting for him. They spend the night celebrating their freedom and reencounter in the streets of Tangiers. During their wanderings, they meet up with Marcela, a Brazilian woman of extreme and suicidal tendencies, who draws them inexorably down into her madness. The three characters plunge into the narrow city streets meeting glue-sniffers, hash-smokers, illegal immigrants, and letting themselves be dragged down into what seems like hell. You can see the film for free on Vimeo.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Out Loud

Film still from Out Loud

Out Loud (2011) dir. Samer 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. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from My Brother the Devil

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.

 

Film still from Salvation Army

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. The film is available to stream for free on Tubi or rent on all major VOD platforms.

 

Film still from Hidden Away

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. Hidden Away is available to watch on Tubi, Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: In Between

Film still from In Between

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. In Between is available to rent on Amazon, Fandango At Home, Apple TV & Google Play.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: The Beach House

Film still from The Beach House

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. The Beach House is available to rent on Amazon Prime (or watch for free with ads) or stream for free on Plex, The Roku Channel and Tubi.

 

Film still from A Petty Bourgeois Dream

A Petty Bourgeois Dream (2016) dir. Mazen Khaled

Lebanon / Drama / 104 min

A mother moves in with her thirty-something son, Ramzi, and his life-long friend, Tarek. This new situation precipitates a series of events and realizations that lead the two men to reexamine their relationship. Their attempt to protect their bubble will bring them closer together as they struggle against social and family pressure, taboo and conflict.

Film still from Only Men Go to the Grave

Only Men Go to the Grave (2016) dir. Abdulla Al Kaabi

United Arab Emirates / Drama / 80 min

Set in 1988, a blind mother welcomes her estranged daughters to tell them a secret. Unfortunately, she accidentally dies while sharing it. During the funeral, the daughters try to deal with her sudden death and also work together to unveil her secret. Throughout the funeral, their own lives continue to unravel, giving room for buried family tensions to gradually surface, while struggling to deal with their own secrets and guilt. The arrival of an unfamiliar guest rocks the entire foundation of their family. Watch the trailer.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Chronic

Film still from Chronic

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Martyr

Film still from Martyr

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. Watch this film for free on Tubi.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: The Wedding

Film still from The Wedding

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Label Me

Film still from Label Me

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. Label Me is available to rent on Vimeo.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Breaking Fast

Film still from Breaking Fast (2020)

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 rent on many major VOD platforms such as Apple TV and Amazon.

This film is based on a 2015 short film by the same name. Breaking Fast (the short) is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Make sure you check out our interview with Mike Mosallam as well our conversation with the cast and crew of Breaking Fast on YouTube!

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Agate mousse

Film still from Agate mousse

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.

 

Film still from Alia’s Birth

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.

 

Film still from Perfect Strangers

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!

 

Film still from Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?

Shall I Compare You To a Summer’s Day? (2022) dir. Mohammad Shawky Hassan • AFF 2022

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 its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2022. You can watch it now on Dekkoo or rent it from Apple TV, Amazon or Vimeo.

You can also listen to a conversation between filmmaker Mohammad Shawky Hassan and fellow filmmaker, scholar and journalist Raed Raefi about the film on our YouTube

 

Film still from The Blue Caftan

The Blue Caftan (2022) dir. Maryam Touzani • AFF 2022

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 and opened our 2022 Arab Film Festival! You can stream it on The Criterion Channel or rent it from many major VOD platforms.

 

Film still from El Houb (The Love)

El Houb (2022) dir. Shariff Nasr

Netherlands / Drama / 102 min

Moroccan-Dutch Karim returns to his family home and opens up to his parents about being into men. Their reaction inspires a journey of discovery through Karim’s isolation as he attempts to break an ingrained culture of silence. The film is available to stream on Dekkoo and Tubi or rent on many major VOD platforms.

 

Still from the film Layla, depicting a drag queen with brown hair and a pink dress peaking from behind a silver streamer curtain.

Film still from Layla

Layla (2024) dir. Amrou Al-Kadhi

United Kingdom, United States / Comedy, Drama, Romance / 99 min

When Layla, a struggling Arab drag queen, falls in love for the first time, they lose and find themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are. Layla is currently still in the festival circuit but will have its theatrical release in the UK & Ireland later this year. Keep an eye out at film festival near you for screenings in the United States!

Feature Documentary Films

Film still from Cinema Fouad

Cinema Fouad (1993) dir. Mohamed Soueid

Lebanon / Documentary / 41 min

Cinema Fouad is a documentary portrait of Khaled El Kurdi, a Syrian trans woman living in Beirut, where she earns a living as a domestic worker and belly dancer. Soueid shows us scenes of El Kurdi’s domestic world: eating, applying make-up, dancing in her bedroom, all while reflecting on her life and experiences. She expresses her desire to undergo gender reassignment surgery, and mourns the death of her lover, a Palestinian freedom fighter. The film can be watched for free on YouTube.

Cinema al Fouad, Lebanon’s first Queer film festival, pulls its name from this film.

 

Cropped poster image for I Exist

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. I Exist is available on DVD from Amazon.

 

Film still from A Jihad for Love

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”. A Jihad for Love is available on DVD. You can watch the trailer here.

 

Film still from I Am Gay and Muslim

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: e muet

Film still from e muet

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.

 

Film still from Oriented

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. Available to stream on Amazon Prime or rent on other major VOD platforms. 

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: A Sinner in Mecca

Film still from A Sinner in Mecca

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 Sinner in Mecca is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

Film still from A Gay Girl in Damascus

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Out of Iraq

Film still from Out of Iraq

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 WOWWatch the trailer.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: This Little Father Obsession

Film still from This Little Father Obsession

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. This Little Father Obsession is streaming for free on Aflamuna beginning June 19, 2024.

 

Film still from Upon the Shadow

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. Upon the Shadow is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Tubi, The Roku Channel and Plex.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Room for a Man

Film still from Room for a Man 

Room for a Man (2017) dir. Anthony Chidiac • AFF 2017

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Here I Am...Here You Are

Film still from Here I Am…Here You Are

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!

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Kelet

Film still from Kelet

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 Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube.

Make sure to also check out our conversation with director Susani Mahadura and Kelet on YouTube.

Image of Ahmed Umar from The Art of Sin

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Miguel's War

Film still from Miguel’s War

Miguel’s War (2021) dir. Eliane Raheb • AFF 2022

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.

Watch an interview with filmmaker Eliane Raheb and film subject Miguel Jelelaty during AFF 2022 on our YouTube.

 

Film still from Fiasco

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. 

 

Film still from Zip It

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. Zip It is available to watch on Arts.Film.

 

Film still from Sirens, Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Sirens (2022) dir. Rita Baghadadi

Lebanon, United States / 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. Sirens is available to stream for free on Sling and Amazon or rent on most major VOD platforms.

Check out our interview with director Rita Baghadadi from our 2023 Arab Women in the Arts showcase on our YouTube.

 

Film still from Perhaps What I Fear Does Not Exist

Perhaps What I Fear Does Not Exist (2022) dir. Corine Shawi • AFF 2022

Lebanon / Documentary, Personal / 73 min

When her father becomes suddenly paralyzed, the filmmaker spends four years in between hospitals finding shelter behind her camera away from a family tragedy. Rehabilitation centers, cemeteries, love making, VR experiments, fervent prayers and voice notes are the record of a filmmaker’s journey trying to amend the impossible: finding absolution for a broken family by making her father walk again. Watch the trailer.

You can listen to a conversation with the filmmaker, Corine Shawi, and the film’s editor, Halim Sabbagh, on our YouTube.

 

Film still from Coming Around

Coming Around (2023) dir. Sandra Itäinen • AFF 2023

United States / Documentary / 75 min

A young, queer Muslim woman is grappling with the decision to come out to her devout mother, and ends up marrying her boyfriend to evade silent disapproval. This is a mother-daughter love story that reveals the often unseen intricacies of coming out and of seeking common ground and family.

Coming Around is available to watch online until June 3 as part of NewFest Pride.

Short Films

Film still from Cadillac Blues

Cadillac Blues (2002) dir. Mazen Khaled

Lebanon / Drama / 27 min

Cadillac Blues is the story of three days in the life of two Lebanese brothers, Omar and Ryan. They are very close. They live together, sharing the living space, the mobile phone, and a huge old Cadillac. We don’t know where their parents are. But they are present only in the boys’ conversations. Through a series of dreams and hallucinations, we get a glimpse into Ryan’s mental state before his brother does. We are given the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a young man struggling with his sexuality in the stuffy environment of the margins. He is down with the Cadillac blues.

 

Film still from My Queer Samsara

My Queer Samsara (2010) dir. Mazen Khaled

Canada / Drama, Fantasy / 11 mins

Following in the Extra Terrestrial’s footsteps, the QT wants to go home. ‘My Queer Samsara is a critical look at a constructed social identity that hides underneath it a gnawing want; a need to ‘go back home’ and be fully accepted into the bosom of our very first loves, the ones who were supposed to take care of us, our families. Watch the trailer.

Film still from Beirut…Hide and Seek

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. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from It Was Related to Me

It Was Related to Me (2011) dir. Mohammad Shawky Hassan

Egypt / Drama / 15 min

A meditation on the complex relationship of two brothers, exploring the interplay of notions of brotherhood, patronage, masculinity, and sexuality. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from As They Say

As They Say (2011) dir. Hicham Ayouch

Morocco / Drama / 13 min

A father and his son go to the mountains for a weekend to fish, the son will make a revelation that will upset their stay.

 

Film still from Mondial 2010

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. Watch the trailer.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: The Great Safae

Film still from The Great Safae

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.

 

Film still from I Say Dust

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. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from The Wig

The Wig (2015) dir. Karim Boukhari

Morocco / Drama / 18 mins

A short film about a young man who goes to movies while he is dressing like a woman. His wig is his protection, his transformation is his way of expression. Watch on Vimeo.

 

Film still from Time to Come

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.

 

Film still from Half a Life

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Ablution

Film still from Ablution

Ablution (2017) dir. Omar Al Dakheel • AFFC 2020

United States / Drama / 15 min

Waleed washes his disabled father Khaled five times a day for Muslim prayer. But, when Waleed’s sexuality is revealed, both father and son are torn between religion, duty, and self. Watch the trailer.
Queer Arab Films to Watch: A Breakup in 9 Scenes

Film still from A Breakup in 9 Scenes

Breakup in 9 Scenes (2017) dir. Leil-Zahra Mortada
Germany / Experimental / 15 min
This is our documentary, it is about you and me. One day after you disappeared, after you sent that break-up message, I made you this video letter. A day after the military took power. In a matter of a day, you and I lost us, and we all lost a revolution. I am not angry, I am disappointed. But how does one live disappointment? What is the physical action associated with disappointment? Anger is much easier. Sadness is much easier. Hatred is the easiest. But I don’t hate you. You are too innocent to hate. We were too innocent to win. It is life. Watch the teaser.

Film still from Salam

Salam (2017) dir. Raed Rafei

In the privacy of her own home, a Syrian woman shares her thoughts and feelings, talking about her existence, and her desire to be open about her sexuality in a conservative society. Watch the trailer.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Brothers

Film still from Brothers

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. Brothers is available to watch for free on YouTube.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Life in Darkness

Film still from Life in Darkness

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: 3 Centimetres

Film still from 3 Centimetres

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. Watch the trailer.

Check out our interview with Lara Zeidan as well!

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Run(a)way Arab

Film still from Run(a)Way Arab

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Son of a Dancer

Film still from Son of a Dancer

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. Son of a Dancer is available to rent on Vimeo.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Dearborn Ash

Film still from Dearborn Ash

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: The Sun Will Rise

Film still from The Sun Will Rise

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.

 

Film still from Nocturnal Desctruction

Nocturnal Deconstruction (2018) dir. Laura El-Alam

Lebanon / Drama, Sci-fi / 17 min

To cope with the emptiness of her life, Sonia decides to try Trupan, a medicine that resolves self-esteem issues and allows each person who takes it, to love him or herself all over again. You can watch the film for free on AudPop.

 

Film still from Total Eclipse

Total Eclipse (2018) dir. Nicolas Medy

France / Darama, Fantasy / 16 min

As they have a lounge in the sun in a bucolic and flowery clearing with friends, Mehdi and Azzedine fall in love. They leave the clearing together looking for a calm place in the woods. But an elegant vampire arrives.

 

Film still from By the End of the Night

By the End of the Night (2018) dir. Denoal Rouaud

Karim, 30, drives every night. One day at dawn, he drives his last client – a foreign artist, the same age than him. Karim feels irresistibly attracted towards this young man. What he feels will start questioning who he thought he was. You can watch the film as part of a short film program called “The Male Gaze: Fleeting Glances” which is available to rent on Vimeo On Demand and Amazon.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Another Dream

Film still from Another Dream

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.

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Chromophobia

Film still from Chromophobia

Chromophobia (2019) dir. Bassem Ben Brahim
Tunisia / Animated / 6 min
This coming-of-age story explores the familial, societal, and religious challenges a boy faces because of his sexual orientation. Chromophobia is available to stream on YouTube.

Film still from Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue (2019) dir. Tarek Lakhrissi
France / Drama / 13 min
Tarek Lakhrissi’s futuristic narrative Out of the Blue takes place at a radical moment in time, when a politically conservative era is suddenly coming to an end. Lakhrissi avoids traditional apocalyptic narratives to meditate instead on the nature of transition itself. In the final scene, the film’s central character delivers a thoughtful speech exploring ideas of freedom and liberty, self-determination and queer futurity. Watch the trailer. Currently available to watch on Shasha.
Queer Arab Films to Watch: Marco

Film still from Marco

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: The Last Paradise

Film still from The Last Paradise

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Ubuntu

Film still from Ubuntu

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Divine Rupture

Film still from Divine Rupture

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 on Shasha.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: What's Left of Home

Film still from What’s Left of Home

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.

 

Film still from Queer Utopia

Queer Utopia: From Stonewall to Tell Garden (2019) dir. Raed Rafei

United States, Lebanon / Documentary, Essay Film / 8 min

When words fail to articulate the meaning of “queerness”, silence replaces an impossible coming out. This essay film ponders the place of queer utopia in a world of difference and privilege. The wandering eye of a Lebanese queer filmmaker oscillates between the clamor of gay rights slogans at the Stonewall monument in New York, and the warm ordinariness of a public garden in his hometown, Tripoli, Lebanon, where homosexuality remains illegal and taboo. Watch the trailer.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Barzakh

Film still from Barzakh

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.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Faraway

Film still from Faraway

Faraway (2020) dir. Aziz Zoromba • AFF 2022

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. Faraway is available to watch for free on Vimeo.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Versailles

Film still from Versailles

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. Watch a scene from the film here.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Polygraph

Film still from Polygraph

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. You can also stream it on The Criterion Channel.

 

Film still from Edible

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.

 

Film still from 1-1

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.

 

Film still from Bellydance Vogue

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.

 

Film still from Sometimes I Wish I Was On a Desert Island

Sometimes I Wish I Was on a Desert Island (2020) dir. Eli Jean Tahchi

Canada / Animated Documentary / 11 mins

As the world learns to live again in the midst of the pandemic, for many Arabic-speaking LGBTQ+ people living in Montreal, this is just a period of time like any other. When you’ve fled homophobic violence in your home country and endured a painful migratory journey, or you still face social prejudices stemming from intercultural and intergenerational conflicts, surviving social isolation is nothing new. Available to watch for free on the National Film Board’s YouTube channel.

Film still from Shams

Shams (2020) dir. Pauline Beugnies

Belgium, Egypt / Drama / 24 mins

Eden, a 30-year-old Belgian woman, works in a cultural center a few thousand kilometers away from her home, in the bustling capital of Cairo. She makes a life-changing encounter with a young woman named Shams. One day, Shams brutally disappears. With the support and friendship of two valiant young Egyptians, Eden starts a fight against her own fears, denials and bias to find Shams. You can stream the film for free on Here TV.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Borekas

Film still from Borekas

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.

 

Film still from La Grande Nuit

La Grande Nuit (2020) dir. Sharon Hakim

France / Drama / 24 min

Esma is a young cabaret dancer of Algerian origin in search of freedom. Hantirah, a young Syrian doctor who is destined for a future mapped out by his parents, is torn between his love for her and his commitment to his fiancée, a medical student like him. On Eid day, between the streets of Barbès and the queer cabaret where Aragoz, Hantirah’s best Egyptian friend, performs, we discover a modern youth of various Arab origins. Watch it for free on YouTube.

 

Film still from Bleeding

Bleeding (2020) dir. Moaad Gader

Palestine / Documentary / 7 min

At the age of nine, the director was subjected to a physical trauma that resulted in heavy bleeding, an experience that felt like an abortion. His parents sent him to a specialist and it was taken care of. After all these years, the memory of this event still haunts him as he tries to investigate the case by reexamining past medical records. Did this really happen?

 

Film still from The Adam Basma Project

The Adam Basma Project (2020) dir. Leila Basma

Lebanon, Czech Republic / Documentary / 15 min

Filmmaker Leila Basma’s uncle left Lebanon when he was just a teenager to become a belly dancer. Growing up with only what he had left behind, Leila has spent her whole life wondering who Adam truly is. Watch the teaser.

 

Queer Arab Films to Watch: Mariam

Film still from Mariam

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.

 

Film still from Missing Piece

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. Watch the film on Vimeo.

 

Film still from The Right Words

The Right Words (2021) dir. Adrian Moyse Dullin

France / Drama, Coming-of-Age / 15 min

Kenza 15 years old and her little brother Mahdi 13 years old regularly humiliate one another on social media in cruel ways. Today, as they travel by bus, Kenza puts her naive and romantic little brother to the test: to profess his love for Jada; a girl that Mahdi loves but that does not know him. Placed under pressure by his sister, Mahdi ends up confessing. Amid the ensuing spectacle, a romantic feelings are also revealed from Kenza’s best friend, causing more confusion and heartache. Watch the trailer.

Film still from Courage

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.

 

Film still from At-Atlal (The Ruins)

At-Atlal (The Ruins) (2021) dir. Raed Rafei

United States / Experimental / 15 min

A drawing of an ancient bathhouse in a French travel book to the Middle East sparks a visual poem, inspired by the Arab poetry tradition of “standing by the ruins”. The ambivalence of the five-hundred-year-old image gestures towards enduring capitalist and colonial power dynamics. Pleasure and pain, seduction and domination, archives and ruins, histories of sex, and histories of empire, all commingle in this essay film. What transpires is a web of visible and invisible threads where homosexuality in the Middle East today seems to be enmeshe. Rent it on Vimeo.

 

Film still from Baba

Baba (2021) dir. Adam Ali & Sam Arbor

United Kingdom / Drama / 17 min

An unexpected discovery forces Britannia, a queer Libyan teenager, to question whether to stay or flee his beloved homeland.

 

Film still from Phone Echo

Phone Echo (2021) dir. Anouch Basbous

Lebanon, France / Essay / 7 min

A correspondence between two lovers from two mediterranean cities, a forbidden letter given for the sea to carry. Phone Echo is the search for a common language, one that fights against erasure with tenderness and the other that witnesses the violence that it faces.

 

Film still from Daughters of Destiny

Daughters of Destiny (2021) dir. Valentin Noujaïm

France / Mystery / 28 min

On the night their favorite bar closes, Eden, Crystal, and Ibtissame, three young, black and Arab queer girls, experience strange events: Crystal mysteriously disappears, kidnapped by a purple star. Eden starts looking for the one she loves, until she discovers that Crystal is trapped in another fantastic and strange world…

 

Film still from Filming a Gay Love Story in the Middle East

A Queer Bird in the Middle East (2021) dir. Naures Sager

Sweden, Jordan / Documentary / 20 min

Iraqi-Swedish director Naures Sager travels around the Middle East to explore his roots. Along on his journey is boyfriend, Michael. Back home in Sweden, Naures’ receives warnings from his worried family about potential consequences of being gay in an Arab country. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from Mlukhiye

Mlukhiye (2021) dir. Rami Fahel

Palestine / Drama / 15 mins

A gay Palestinian in the closet goes out to a blind date with a guy that cat-fished him. When he tries to escape the guy threatens to expose his sexual identity. Trying not to get in trouble, he decides to come-out by himself to his own family. Watch the film for free on YouTube.

 

Film still from Nuit de Chine

Nuit de Chine (2021) dir. Nicolas Medy

France / Drama / 15 min

Karim is a young queer science fiction filmmaker. The grief of his break-up with Paul prevents him from writing the script for his film Nuit de Chine. On his mother’s advice, he gives up science fiction to write a film about love. One afternoon at the café, he runs into the hero of his film, Fouad, and falls in love.

 

Film still from Habib and the Thief

Habib and The Thief (2021) dir. Naures Sager • AFF 2022

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.

 

Film still from Vénus Rétrograde

Vénus Rétrograde (2021) dir. Nicolas Medy & Valentin Noujaïm

France / Drama / 5 min

Midnight sharp. Two radio journalists host a dull cultural program. Lights are switched off. A gang of women invades the studio to broadcast a message: “One, two… One, two… This is a coup!” Venus Retrograde explores an erotic, queer coup d’etat through a campy aesthetic and futuristic themes.

 

Film still from Dress Up

Dress Up (2022) dir. Karina Dandashi • AFF 2022

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.

 

Film still from Warsha

Warsha (2022) dir. Dania Bdeir • AFF 2022

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. You can stream the film on the Criterion Channel or rent it on AppleTV.

 

Film still from The Window

The Window (2022) dir. Sarah Kaskas • AFF 2022

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.

In 2022 the filmmakers of The Window, Warsha, Dress Up and Habib and the Thief joined us and moderator Raed Rafei for a panel discussion entitled “Arab + Queer + Film: Between here and there”, about the richness and diversity of queer film production in the Arab region and its diasporas. You can listen to their conversation on our YouTube.

 

Film still from Yes, Goddess!

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. Watch Yes, Goddess! for free on Vimeo.

 

Film still from Beirut Dreams in Color

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.

This film is currently available to stream for free on The Guardian, alongside a great piece written by Mashrou’ Leila founding member Haig Papazian.

 

Film still from Nidhal

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. You can watch the film as part of a short film program called “The Male Gaze: Fleeting Glances” which is available to rent on Vimeo On Demand and Amazon.

 

Film still from One Like Him

One Like Him (2022) dir. Caitlin McLeod

United Kingdom, Jordan / Drama / 15 min

A Jordanian man (Karim) must find a way to tell his childhood friend and first love (Ramzi) the truth about what happened twenty years ago, when a single moment changed both their lives. When he can’t find the words, the conversation repeats, becoming increasingly surreal until he loses. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from Early Retirement

Early Retirement (2022) dir. Michelle Bossy

United States / Drama, Comedy / 12 min

A 30-something year old man, on the heels of a breakup with his boyfriend, moves in with his parents who live in a 55+ adult community. Through confronting his own insecurities and examining family relationships and dynamics, he’s able to move forward. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from Muslim Mingle

Muslim Mingle (2022) dir. Reem Morsi

United States / Drama, Comedy / 7 min

An awkward, people-pleasing Arab immigrant finally decides to come out to his fiancee then his mom walks in on them.

 

Film still from La Casquette (The Hat)

La Casquette (The Hat) (2022) dir. Hadi Moussally

France / Documentary / 3 min

Hadi stares at the camera and begins to get dressed. As he prepares himself, he expresses his thoughts on the current situation, how much discrimination and amalgams weigh on him, he who wears the double stigmatizing hat of gay & Arab. What to do with this weight? Watch the film for free on YouTube.

 

Film still from Kingdom of Strangers

Kingdom of Strangers (2022) dir. Randa Ali • AFF 2022

Egypt, USA / Experimental, Drama / 15 min

Ali, a young Egyptian living in self-exile in Los Angeles is visited by a memory of an old friend. Together they try to make sense of a past haunted by trauma and a present that makes no sense. Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from Dogfriend

Dogfriend (2022) dir. Maissa Lihedheb

Germany / Drama, Comedy, Romance / 18 min

A date takes an unexpected turn in this meditation on race, politics, and history in Germany.

 

Film still from Allah made me queer

Allah made me queer or Our success is in sharing space (2022) dir. Yasmine Benabdallah

Allah made me queer or Our success is in sharing space is a three-act short film about identifying as both Muslim and queer, about spirituality, identity, negotiating the intimate and the shared. Between religious chants and coming out anecdotes, Wazina and Terna perform and take their private life to the public, bringing a conflicted identity met with resistance from their very own families, onto the stage.

 

Film still from My Girl Friend

My Girl Friend (2022) dir. Kawthar Younis • AFF 2023

Egypt / Drama / 17 min

Desperate for intimacy, Ali follows his girlfriend’s suggestion that puts their relationship to the test. The plan unfolds unexpectedly when gender roles become blurred.

Still from the series A Letter To Myself

A Letter To Myself (2022) dir. Omar Gabriel

Lebanon / Documentary / Series

This short documentary series aims to counterbalance the mainstream narrative that vilifies and caricatures the queer community in Lebanon.

Despite the devastating circumstances that have left us deprived of everything,
It is time for us to share our own story.
It is time for us to speak up and be heard. – Filmmaker Omar Gabriel

A Letter to Myself was originally released as a web series but does not appear to be available online anymore but the series as a whole and individual films from the series, such as Valerie and Soha, have been screening at festivals and other events around the world. Watch the trailer here.

 

Poster for Eitr

Eitr (2023) dir. Fateema Al-Hamaydeh Miller • AFF 2023

Canada / Comedy, Drama, Romance / 15 min

Grinding away at the inherited family business, Mohamed works tirelessly making sales of knock-off perfume, while living as a knock-off version of his true self. His doting mother Marwa brings him lunch everyday and sets up chay dates with potential romantic interests (and their families) what seems like every night. Inside of this monotony Mohamed is lying to himself about his sexuality and leaning into the mask of masculinity in order to maintain the expectations of those around him, but in reality the biggest expectations of how he should be are set by himself. We follow Mohamed on a day where the monotony comes to a screeching halt, when an unexpected charming customer enters his shop. Mohamed shares a connection with this beautiful stranger who lives in self-acceptance and who truly sees him underneath the many layers of Polo Sport adjacent cologne. In Eitr, Mohamed’s fear of his true desires will be tested as he is caught off guard by the power of being seen, but can this connection break him out of his performative shell, even for a lingering moment? Watch the trailer.

 

Film still from Our Males and Females

Our Males and Females (2023) dir. Ahmad Alyaseer

Jordan / Drama / 11 min

A father and mother are faced with the painful task of washing their deceased transgender daughter, but when no one agrees to wash her, how far is the father willing to go to make sure his “son” is washed? Watch the trailer.

Check out this piece on the film, on the Arabology blog, written by Dr. Ramzi Salti, a longtime AFMI programming committee member.

 

Film still from Cousins

Cousins (2023) dir. Karina Dandashi • AFF 2023

United States / Drama, Comedy / 13 min

Two cousins born in separate countries reunite in Brooklyn when a run-in with an ex turns the night into a mission of revenge. Cousins explores cultural disconnect between family members and identity within oneself. What does it mean to belong somewhere, and how do we find our way back? Cousins is free to watch on The New Yorker website.

 

Film still from Ya Benti

Ya Benti (2023) dir. Anissa Allali • AFF 2023

France / Drama / 24 min

Sabrina is about to marry Younes, a marriage that means everything to her mother and grandmother. But on the eve of this commitment, Sabrina backs out.

 

Film still from Maghreb’s Hope

Maghreb’s Hope (2023) dir. Bassem Ben Brahim

Through a fusion of animation and real images, queer individuals from the Maghreb share their stories, from their homeland to various parts of the rest of the world. These individuals have fiercely broken societal taboos around gender and sexuality, defying social, legal and familial pressures, even among those who have chosen to break away from their families.

 

Film still from Youssou & Malek

Youssou & Malek (2023) dir. Simon Frenay

Youssou and Malek are in love but they now have to say goodbye. Tomorrow, Youssou is flying off to the other side of the world, leaving behind him Malek and the neighborhood where they grew up. They promised each other to meet at the top of the hill for their last sunset together.

 

Breaking Through (2023) dir. Siham Bel

France / Drama / 29 min

Since she left Corsica where she grew up, Safia has always secured family balance. To protect her relationship with her father, she has never told him about her homosexuality. On a summer evening, she breaks the secret and runs away.

 

Bright Heart(2023) dir. Tarek Lakhrissi

France / Drama, Fantasy / 14 min

A young man, Jahid, runs away in the night from a dangerous biker and takes refuge in a strangely quiet museum. There he meets unusual characters and faces extraordinary events. Throughout this initiatory journey, Jahid confronts the improbable and goes through the exploration of beauty, political awareness as well as the surrounding danger…

 

Film still from Queer Exile

Queer Exile (2024) dir. Ahmed Awadalla

Germany / Documentary / 10 min

After escaping Egypt following the 2011 revolution, an activist finds himself in Berlin, hoping to start a new life and find safety and freedom. However, he ends up living in a refugee camp located in an area where far-right groups frequently hold anti-refugee protests. Caught between the hostility of his new home and the nostalgia for his past life, he begins to question his life choices and what it means to walk down a queer path. By exploring his memories archives, he develops a new understanding of what it means to be in exile. He also forms new friendships with those around him and redefines the concept of “home” in Berlin.

 

Film still from I Never Promised You A Jasmine Garden

I Never Promised You A Jasmine Garden (2024) dir. Teyama Alkamli

Canada / Drama / 20 min

Tara, a queer Palestinian woman in her late 20s, attempts to suppress her internal emotional turbulence during a phone call with her best friend Sarab, with whom she is in love. Watch the trailer.

 

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!