IMG_2717 KEY 2Israeli-born writer-director Michael Mayer looks at the myriad problems faced by gay men who fall in love across the Israel/Palestine divide in his acclaimed debut feature, Out in the Dark.

Having already garnered rave reviews at queer film festivals across the country, this month Out in the Dark returns to screens as part of the AICE Israeli Film Festival.

As Mayer told the Star Observer from his Los Angeles home, his initial interest for the film was sparked when a friend, a volunteer at an Israeli gay and lesbian centre, alerted him to the unique plight of displaced Palestinian gay men.

“These people end up in Israel because they’re not welcome in their homes – but then they’re not welcome in Israel either, so they’re stuck in an impossible situation which is rife with potential problems,” Mayer explained.

Those problems – threats of violence, blackmail and exploitation from both Israeli and Palestinian interests – are explored in Mayer’s assured feature.

Newcomer Nicholas Jacob plays Nmir, a young Palestinian man who sneaks out to an Israeli gay bar one night and meets Roy (Michael Aloni), a handsome and well-off Jewish lawyer. The two have an instant attraction and their relationship moves at a rapid pace – but dark forces are chasing after them and threatening their very survival, let alone their blossoming romance.

“It’s such a difficult situation for an Israeli/Palestinian couple. To an extent it would be true of a heterosexual couple as well, but the problem is certainly compounded when it’s a gay couple,” Mayer said.

“A lot of Palestinian people assume that if you’re being gay and you spend any time in Israel, you are then suspected of being a ‘collaborator’ [cooperating with Israeli forces to conspire against Palestine]. It makes the whole situation more explosive, if you’ll pardon the pun.”

It’s not giving too much away to reveal that Out in the Dark ends on a muted, ambiguous note – while there may be some hope for Roy and Nmir, audiences can’t be sure how much. Only one thing’s for certain: both face a hard road ahead.

Mayer said he never felt tempted to provide viewers with a sugar-coated ending to what is a brutal tale of love amidst conflict.

“I’m left-leaning, my co-writer Yael Shaffer leans to the right, but as we were talking about the situation, we were both pretty pessimistic – we both felt that while there is hope in the future, there won’t be a resolution in the next few years. We wanted to be true to that with an ending that sits somewhere in the middle of that.”

Mayer said he’d found one unusual side effect of making such a politically charged film: he now finds himself accused of being anti-Israel and anti-Palestine in almost equal measure.

“There haven’t been riots! It’s usually very polite – people raise their hands and say ‘So you got funded by the Israeli Film Fund but you’ve made a film that’s anti-Israeli, why is that?’

But you know what? There’s good guys and bad guys on both sides of the fence in this film.”

 

Info: AICE Israeli Film Festival, Sydney August 13-29, Melbourne August 14-28, Brisbane August 20-26. Full details at www.palacecinemas.com.au

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