DVD Review - Mixed Kebab

Simon Van Buyten (left) and Cem Akkanat
take a Turkish bath in "Mixed Kebab"
Cem Akkanat stars as Ibrahim or Bram. He opens this movie by stating directly via voice-over that he's Turkish, he's Muslim and he's gay. He lives in Antwerp, a major city in Belgium. He's open enough to go to gay bars and hit on men, but his true nature is hidden from his family. Bram's brother Furkan, played by Lukas De Wolf, suspects Bram of being gay but even when he accuses Bram in front of their parents and sister, Bram is able to deny it convincingly. Furkan's credibility is not all that great because he's been in trouble with the law, such as theft and drugs and etc. Still, he's getting older and in order to keep appearances, Bram agrees to an arranged marriage to Elif, played by Gamze Tazim. Elif lives in Turkey with her blind father. Unfortunately, Bram can't help himself and he decides to bring his young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Belgian boyfriend Kevin, played by Simon Van Buyten, to accompany him to Turkey and hang in the hotel while he meets his bride-to-be.

This leads to Bram and Kevin taking a Turkish bath. Both are naked aside from a towel wrapped around them. They sit and lay down in a steam room in order to perspire until they're soaking in their own sweat. Besides exposing a beautiful and signature tradition in Turkey, it also exposes the beautiful bodies of Akkanat and Van Buyten. Clearly, it's a scene of pure homoeroticism. As part of the Turkish bath, the men wash each other by massaging one another's skin and muscles. It's essentially guys rubbing each other up and down. Writer-director Guy Lee Thys uses this to craft one of the most sensual sex scenes I've seen in a year.

Guy Lee Thys' film is essentially a look at homophobia within the Muslim culture, as well as the disinterest and wastefulness of youth. In the Muslim culture, or at least the culture presented here, a father will disown his son, if he discovers that son is gay. The majority of the movie takes place in Belgium, which Guy Lee Thys doesn't provide a sense of the economy, but three young, Turkish men who are working-class, who aren't working, turn to theft and drug use, and even violence. This isn't new, but it's indicative of how unemployment and poor economic conditions can affect the youth.

Yet, homophobia is what's on most display here, and Bram and Kevin have to navigate through it. The end credits queue a song that rebukes homophobia and is such an anthem for empowerment, one that could have been sung by Bram. The song is 'Let Me Be Myself' by Nelson Morais. The lyrics to the song are so great and so perfect that I feel compelled to reprint the words here. The lyrics were written by Yves Gaillard. Nelson Morais is the singer, but here's what he vocalizes.

"The world is changing everyday / And you just want it to stay the same / The past is a safe place / I fake a smile for the things you say / Sometime I feel so ashamed / A lie upon my face / You were brought up in your time / Let me grow up in mine / Let me be, let me be, let me be myself / Let me go, let me grow, I don't need your help / You always put me down / You always put me down."

Hearing these words after seeing the film really makes you feel every line and every emotion trying to be conveyed. The film is a pretty expression of gay love and sex as part of a grander, Muslim identity and culture clash.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.


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