VOD Review - Oriented

The documentary follows three, Palestinian men who are all homosexual. They live in Tel Aviv, Israel, a city where being openly gay is okay for them to do. The three of them each have their various issues, which probably represent a good cross-section of the issues that many gay Palestinians face in the Middle East. Director Jake Witzenfeld are with them for a few months, if not the better part of a year in which all three have to make significant, if not critical decisions that could change their lives forever. It's pivoted about the three guys producing three viral videos that challenge ideas about gender and sexual orientation within the Arab and Muslim world.

Khader Abu Seif is 25. He's a blogger who has a Jewish boyfriend named David. Given the violence, David wants to leave and emigrate to Germany, but Khader feels too much of a kinship to the area and wants it to be his home despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. He has to decide if he's going to stay or go.

Fadi Daeem is 26, a nurse who studied at Tel Aviv University. He dated Khader as a teen but now is best friends with him. Fadi states that he doesn't want to date now a Jewish man, except in the middle of the movie, he begins an affair with a Jewish soldier who has a politically opposing view. He admits he's fallen in love but can't stand the Zionist ideology, so Fadi is conflicted about following his heart, which has him sorely divided.

Naeem Jiryes is 24, a fellow male nurse who has a lot of labels like vegetarian and feminist but he's still in the closet. When he visits his family in the rural area, they push for him to move home, get a wife and have children. It's a source of discomfort for him and he's saddened when he sees the families of his friends so accepting. He has to decide if he's finally going to tell his parents the truth.

Witzenfeld doesn't provide much information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would give us context of what men like Khader dislike. There is a moment when we see on TV a news report of a Palestinian teen who is killed by Jewish people. It's very selective though. We're not shown the Jewish deaths by Palestinians. Despite some misconception from Jewish people, the subjects here don't really express the horror in their lives, the danger.

Films like Eytan Fox's The Bubble (2007) or Michael Mayer's Out in the Dark (2013) do express the potential horror and danger of living in the Middle East. Here, we see the guys go to a concert in Amman, Jordan. Coming out as gay to one's parents and dating someone with different ideology aren't really addressed. The subjects bring up the topics, but all of it really happens off-screen. Fadi's boyfriend, for example, is never shown. Naeem telling his parents the truth is never shown. He sends a letter, but we never see a reaction from them or what his conversation was like.

The viral videos aren't really given much weight either. One scene has them reading comments on YouTube, but Witzenfeld never explores what the consequences are. We don't know how many views the viral videos are getting. We don't know if people are recognizing them on the street, if it's having the desired effect or any effect. It comes across as something they did just to do something and then it's forgotten.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 19 mins.
Available now on Netflix Watch Instant.

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