Friday, March 31st, 2023

Romeo + Tybalt in Israel?

Out in the Dark

Directed by Michael Mayer

Written by Yael Shafrir and Michael Mayer

Premiered September 7, 2012, at the Toronto Film Festival
Drama (thriller/foreign)
96 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

March 31, 2014.

Out in the Dark is a generic and not all-that-apt title for the 2012 Israeli movie about the troubles of a gay Palestinian psychology or counseling student with his homophobic family and Israeli security personnel and his Jewish (though very Nordic-looking) idealistic lover, a lawyer who is well-connected but still vulnerable to the ruthless Israeli security force.

Only one of these characters can be “out” and continue to live; most of the movie is nocturnal if not totally dark. The couple whose devotion seems rather quick (if not as quick as Romeo + Juliet!) are the Arab Nimer [Nicholas Jacob] and the Jew Roy [Michael Aloni]. Roy’s family is more accepting than Nimer’s, but none too pleased at his rubbing his sexual orientation in their face (as they conceive any reminder, with bringing an Arab boyfriend home for Sabbath dinner bordering on heinous).

Michael Mayer, who cowrote, coproduced and directed the movie said that “it was important for me not to make an ‘issue-film’, but rather a human drama about love, family, loyalty that is set within a charged reality.” Yeah, well the “charged reality” includes de facto murder of a Palestinian queen, Mustafa [Loai Nofi], and de facto threats of a similar fate if Nimer does not agree to spy for the not-so-secret Israeli police. The Jewish gay character heroically takes risks (the Arab one is in a risky position by his very nature) and supports his doubly illicit lover (as in The Bubble).

 There are gay rights in Israel that do no exist in the tenuous Palestinian territories, though Mayer shows plenty of Israeli Jewish homophobia, particularly in the contemptuous chief security operative who is unmistakably portrayed as a terrorist (with more resources than the Palestinian ones) in an apartheid state/status quo.

The leads are hot with matching stubble that does not grow even a millimeter over night or from day to day. What they do together sexually is not indicated, let alone shown. Nimer is in his underwear (briefs) a lot, Roy in his (boxer briefs) less often. Their un-graphic bed scenes have them in a position that would only work for heterosexual sex (the same complaint I made about the American independent film Pit Stop and which applies to many films with male-male coupling).

 Both the thriller and the romance are fairly standard, though the setting (Tel Aviv and Ramallah) is not and the acting (not just, but especially that of first-time actor Nicholas Jacon) is outstanding.

The Political Film Society nominated Out in the Dark for best film on human rights of 2013.

First posted 31 March 2014 by Out In Jersey
©2014, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.