Queer wasn’t a problem in Middle Eastern films until recently

Gulf countries recently banned Disney’s Toy Story movie Light year Because of a lesbian kiss. Saudi Arabia also demanded Disney remove 12 seconds of the latest Dr. GharibA movie, because America Chavez’s character is talking about her “mother.” And last year in Egypt, a very conservative member of parliament wanted to ban Netflix for “promoting immorality” in the Arabic version of the Netflix movie. Totally strangers, partly because one of the characters is out of his homosexuality. while, Totally strangers Most watched Netflix movies in the Arab world.

This week is coming Love and spells and all that In the Netherlands, directed by Umit Onal from 2019. A beautiful film made naturally about two women who meet again twenty years after their first relationship and fall in love again. Is this possible in Erdogan’s religiously conservative Turkey?

Surprisingly, Middle Eastern cinema has never had much trouble with historically anomalous characters and themes. Queer is only visible in movies. In the films of Egyptian pioneer Togo Mizrahi, who worked with the biggest movie stars of his time, he regularly ended up getting comically entangled in bed with people of the same sex or kissing each other more than amicably. Cross-dressing scenes were the daily routine.

In the decades that followed, Egyptian star Youssef Chahine paid close attention to serious character interpretation in his films featuring queer characters, for example in his partial autobiography. Alexandria Trilogy. in the part Alexandria why? We witness an affair with a lustful scene between an Egyptian nationalist and a British soldier. These films are constantly shown on Arab TV channels.

Only in 1964 did Shaheen go away These are the people of the Nile, a movie about the construction of the Aswan Dam, in which a Russian engineer has a relationship with an Egyptian worker. He took him to Russia and then made him walk behind him a few meters down the street. These references to racism could upset Egypt’s Russian allies, according to the censor. Shaheen had to reshoot these street scenes, but the love affair wasn’t a problem.


Salah Abu Seif Malatili . bath (1973) went even further in portraying eroticism. The film takes place in a bathroom in Cairo, where a rich artist falls in love with a student worker from a poor family who works there as a masseur. Although the boy loves a prostitute who also works in the bathroom, there is sexual tension between the artist and the student.

The artist refers to the historical tolerance of the Middle East towards homosexuality. Meanwhile, he explains his homosexuality as Freud through an unhappy relationship with his parents. But the film is a plea for acceptance. The fact that he can no longer be seen on television may be related to the almost nude scenes. On the street you can find it everywhere on pirated DVDs.

Transvestite comedy plot men only (Mahmoud Zulficar, 1964) as Billy Wilders Some like it hot Six years ago, with celebrities gay evolution in the end. Cross comedy was popular in Egypt, but men only It was also a serious call for the equal treatment of women. Two graduate oil engineers (star actresses Soad Hosni and Nadia Lotfi) couldn’t find work until they appeared as men on an oil rig in the desert. There are the necessary complications of transgenderism, such as during the weekly dance where men dance close to each other due to a lack of women – according to some references to a gay nightclub.

Yacoubian’s Building (Marwan Hamed, Egypt 2006) is the most commercially successful film of all time in Arab cinema. In this film, homosexuality is portrayed as “normal”. The gay journalist is one of the most beloved personalities.

Strange Turkish star

It is no different in Turkey. Turkish singer/film star Zeki Morin, who often played a transvestite and who was known to be gay, was a popular hero in the middle of the last century. The next Turkish star was singer/film star Bulent Ersoy. In 1981, immediately having undergone a gender correction, a military council came to power that banned “social deviance”. Hajar Ersoy. After the junta’s disappearance, he’s back, and his popularity is relentless. Her eccentricity does not stand in the way of relations with the current religiously conservative regime: In 2016, she caused an uproar when she hosted the religiously conservative President Erdogan and his wife during a Ramadan meal.

In the movie “Köçek” (1975), a boy dreams of becoming a woman.

Homosexuality appeared in films half a century ago, but the topic was given little depth. Turkish was typical at that time kojic (1975). In this, the boy dreams of becoming a woman. Gangsters force him to act like Kochik A prostitute, a young traditional nightclub dancer dressed as a woman. When a rival gang wants to rape him, criminals discover his gender and stab him. When he wakes up in the hospital, the doctor performs a sex change operation. Then a childhood friend falls in love with her, not knowing that she was once his best friend. All this in the form of a musical.

This somewhat comical handling of grotesque subjects has given way to more serious character painting in recent decades. in Fatih Akins edge of paradise (2007) The same-sex relationship was also central, just as it is in the Lebanese caramel Written by Nadine Labaki about a group of women and their relationship problems. One of them is attracted to women, which is not a problem for anyone.

In terms of openness and understanding, Middle Eastern cinema does not do badly compared to Hollywood, where queer characters in the past were often quirky villains, as in Rope, Midnight Express, The Silence of the Lambs or Basic instinct. Why does the movie become like Light year Banned now? Gulf states talk about Western influences that run counter to local values. But don’t they seem to be importing themselves Western conservatives and Christians? It would be better for them to study their own film history.

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