At this year’s Arab Film Festival, we will be presenting a total of 5 shorts programs with a range of different themes. We’ve always found short films to be an incredible way to highlight diverse voices and new talent. This year we are particularly excited to present our inaugural Queer Lens: LBGTQ+ Showcase! This 2 hour program of award-winning films is all about queer Arabs, by queer filmmakers. By virtue of this program we aim to celebrate the multi-dimensional formations of Arab queerness in lieu of stories that so urgently need to be told, especially in today’s polarized media climate that leaves issues of visibility lost in the haze, or, worse: cast in a one-size-fits-all “Western Queer Narrative” that ignores the many complexities and nuances faced by LGBTQ+ persons in the Arab World and beyond, including Arab Americans and Muslims. Here are all the films included in Queer Lens.

Queer Lens: LBGTQ+ Showcase at the Arab Film Festival

Film still from Brothers

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 directed by the multi-talented producer, director and writer, Mike Mosallam. Want to learn more about Mike? Check out the interview we did with him here!

Queer Lens: LBGTQ+ Showcase at the Arab Film Festival

Film still from Dearborn Ash

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 directed by writer-director Hena Ashraf. Hena will be present for a post-film Q&A.

Queer Lens: LBGTQ+ Showcase at the Arab Film Festival

Film still from Label Me

Label Me is the story of Waseem, 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 directed by German filmmaker Kai Kreuser. The film is inspired by interviews Kreuser conducted with gay Syrian refugee men while volunteering at an LGBT center.

Queer Lens: LBGTQ+ Showcase at the Arab Film Festival

Film still from Marco

Marco is a film about Omar who 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 directed by critically-acclaimed novelist Saleem Haddad. This is his directorial debut.

Film still Son of a Dancer

Son of a Dancer tells the story of Majed, a 20-year-old man, who 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 directed by Lebanese filmmaker Georges Hazim. Georges gives voice to the Queer community within a quasi-conservative society. He sees film as the ultimate weapon needed to progress in order to reach the freedom to exist without fear.

Queer Lens will be presented on October 12th at The Roxie Theater. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Psst: Why stop at Queer Lens? If you are looking for more LGBTQ+ Arab films to watch, we got you covered!