Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni, Jamil Khoury, Alon Pdut
Yael Shafrir, Michael Mayer
Breaking Glass Pictures
With his debut film Out in the Dark, Israeli born director Michael Mayer has crafted a memorable and haunting relationship drama set within the political context of the Mideast conflict. While this certainly isn't the first LGBT drama to be set in the Mideast, it's likely the most successful at weaving together the genuine intimacy of the relationship with the political and cultural landmines that inherently accompany such a relationship.
Nimir (newcomer Nicholas Jacob) is a Palestinian student who sneaks across the border one night to visit a friend, Mustafa (Loai Nofi), at a Tel Aviv gay bar. At the bar, Nimir encounters Roy (Michael Aloni), an attractive Israeli lawyer. The two begin a passionate affair and things seem to be going their way when Nimir is selected for an exclusive class in Tel Aviv and suddenly has the ability to go back and forth with much greater ease. Unfortunately, this is not to last as his brother becomes involved with armed rebels and Mustafa is rounded up by the Israeli police and dumped back in Ramallah. When rumors fly that he was collaborating with the Israelis, Mustafa is murdered by a mob that includes Nimir's increasingly radicalized brother. Nimir, with nowhere else to turn, goes to Roy and the two try to develop a plan to deal with Nimir's potentially lethal situation that becomes even more potentially lethal when Nimir's family uncovers the truth about his sexuality. Attempting to pull every connection he has, Roy quickly learns that even the more progressive Israel is not progressive enough to help him protect the "enemy" Nimir.
Out in the Dark had its premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and has now been picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures for a VOD and theatrical release on September 24th, 2013. The film, while capturing the honesty and attraction of the relationship between Nimir and Roy, is a tense thriller in which Mayer pulls no punches in portraying the truth of attempting to live and love as oneself in a culture with strict rules and expectations and consequences when one goes outside those rules and expectations.
Out in the Dark isn't necessarily a film that will always be "enjoyed," but enjoyment is far from the only reason to see a film. It's an important film with universal themes that carry with them an unforgettable emotional resonance. While on a certain level the film is a love story, the truth is it is far more about Nimir and his life and love journey. It is, perhaps, most easily compared to Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain yet it is a less poetic and stylish film as Mayer chooses authenticity over symbolism amidst the same struggles with very real cultural norms. A more appropriate comparison might be 2009's deeply moving Eyes Wide Open.
Newcomer Nicholas Jacob truly impresses as Nimir by embodying the young man with all the youthful enthusiasm, passion, fear, vulnerability and more that such a young man would possess. Nimir is a passionate yet tragic figure and Jacob does a wonderful job of capturing his fullness with layered complexity. Michael Aloni is good as well, though he's given less to work with as Roy, whose primary task once the affair begins is to really play off Nimir's simmering conflicts. Loai Nofi is riveting as Mustafa, unquestionably the film's most tragic and unforgettable character.
Out in the Dark has proven to be wildly successful on the film festival front with a slew of festival prizes in both LGBT and non-LGBT fests. That crossover appeal is well deserved and one can only hope that the film finds a wider audience when it opens in theatrical release later this month. For more information on the film, visit the Out in the Dark website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic