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