28 September 2018

Egyptian Filmmaker Aims to Show LGBT+ People Are 'Not Alone'

Beirut — The director of a new Egyptian movie about a secretly gay man preparing to marry a woman has said he wanted to let LGBT+ people in the Middle East know they are "not alone".

Sam Abbas, who also plays the lead character Rami, said the secrecy depicted in "The Wedding" was a daily reality for gay people in the region who had to keep their sexuality hidden.

"The film to me, more than anything, is about repression and alienation," Abbas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed statements.

"The Middle East, especially Egypt, is not LGBTQ friendly, so hopefully it will show individuals of the community that they are not alone."

"The Wedding" depicts the inner struggles of a young gay Muslim man living in New York and will show in secret, invitation-only screenings in the Middle East in November to protect viewers.

It will show in select theatres in the United States in December.

Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised in Egypt, but LGBT+ people have long been targeted under laws on debauchery.

Last year, dozens of people were detained after fans attending a rock concert in Egypt's capital raised a rainbow flag in a rare show of public support for LGBT+ rights in the conservative Muslim country.

"In Egypt - it is so bad that you can get targeted for just being friends with, or associated with the LGBTQ community," said Abbas, who recently launched a production company, ArabQ Films, to make movies with LGBT+ themes.

The 24-year-old, who was born in Egypt and now lives in New York, said he believed the film would resonate particularly strongly with people in the Middle East struggling with their sexuality and with cultural and religious taboos.

"It's highly relevant in the Middle East because the themes in this film are the realities of the Middle East. Exploring queer sexuality in secret, anal sex before marriage so that the girl remains pure, etc," said Abbas.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face persecution in many countries in the region, where some risk fines, jail and even death. Social exclusion and abuse are common.

- Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Claire Cozens

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