Review: Oriented

The Pride in London Festival is a wonderfully varied, challenging and stimulating amalgmation of LGBT events leading up to the main pride celebrations on Saturday 25th. Festival curator Duncan Day, along with a dedicated group of other volunteers, has organised a host of film screenings, performances, panel discussions and everything in between, across the city for anyone to enjoy.

 


Last week we went to a screening of Oriented at the intimidatingly urban-chic Ham Yard Hotel nestled down a Soho side street. London’s gay media glitterati were in attendance, from award-winning film producer Hanan Kattan, to muslim drag superstar Asifa Lahore.

Oriented is a documentary following the lives of three young gay Palestinian men living in Tel Aviv. It explores their relationship with religion, sexuality, and culture, and the tension between Jews and Muslims that is still a major part of everyday life in Israel.

Director Jake Witzenfeld has created a warm-hearted and accessible window into Israeli/Palestinian culture. Filmed in an unthreatening style, it never feels contrived or preachy. He achieves a goal that is surely the holy grail for all documentary film makers – he captures seemingly totally natural behaviour and conversation from his subjects, as if the camera weren’t there.

We followed Khader, Fadi and Naim as they agonized over trysts and romances, debated the pros and cons of living in politically volatile Tel Aviv and discussed their sexuality with their families. It’s also refreshingly free of the clichés that are rife among other portrayals of Palestinian culture. It’s mostly just about three friends having fun, getting drunk and talking about life.

A running theme is of them leaving their oppressively rural upbringings and finding joy and freedom in the urban metropolis of a thriving city, something a lot of gay men can identify with.

Oriented is an important movie. It puts across aspects of life for young gay people in the Middle East that many of us are totally unfamiliar with. It shows a group of people who know what they want, unafraid and unapologetic in the face of a challenging and changing sociopolitical environment.

 

• For more Pride in London events, go to prideinlondon.org

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