Friday, May 23, 2008


I haven't seen the new documentary A Jihad For Love yet, but Nathan Lee's brushed-off review of it in the NY Times irritated me.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm not a fan of Lee's. I wish the man well, but I feel that his opinions - and his written endorsements of them - border on the hyper-hysterical (see his defense of Southland Tales in this year's Slate Film Club)... kind of like a less intelligent, cinema-centered Andrew Sullivan.

Of A Jihad For Love, Lee writes:
Sad to say, A Jihad For Love is not a sequel to the pornographic satire The Raspberry Reich (2004), in which pseudo-revolutionaries exhort their comely comrades to “join the homosexual intifada!” It is, rather more arduously, a dispatch from the outer limits of marginalization: a documentary on devout Muslims struggling with their homosexuality.
I find that last sentence insensitive in that it's aimed at a documentary whose subjects live in constant fear of honor killings. Lee simply chides it as a "dispatch from the outer limits of marginalization". A "dispatch"?!?! And by "outer limits", is Lee implying that the marginalization of gay Muslims is way out there on the radar of social significance? I sure hope not.

Lee continues:
He [Parvez Sharma] does manage to locate a headstrong lesbian in Paris, albeit one whose face, like those of many of the subjects here, has been digitally blurred. “If we are truly Muslims,” runs her contradictory lament, “we have no right to alter his creation.”
I tend to give someone that writes for the NY Times the benefit of the doubt (I'm aware that's probably a serious gaffe of generosity on my part...), but this passage sounds like Lee is either unaware, and/or, unconcerned with the very true and brutal realities homosexual Muslims face in countries like Iran, Egypt, and Afghanistan, not to mention within radicalized communities in Canada, the United States, and England.

Mr. Sharma’s film emphasizes testimony over context to such a degree that it feels at first of little use to anyone except gay Muslims who might take comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
"...testimony over context". Well, I do congratulate Lee, here, for pinpointing all that is wrong with the modern documentary, but when he criticizes A Jihad For Love for being "of little use to anyone except gay Muslims"?? Well shucks!... god forbid, in these cynical times, that there might be a documentary that can touch an audience in a way that will make them feel less alone. If a film, that may lack artistry in other areas, can at least cling to one positive, I would think that that would be one of them.