"OUT IN THE DARK"
Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East, has long been known as The Holy Land. It is the "Promised Land" for many people, the birthplace of three religions, and an area steeped in centuries of spiritual and historical richness. Home to both Jews and Palestinians, this tiny but sacred part of the world has also been the source of religious and political conflict since Biblical times. "Out in the Dark", the searing new-to-DVD romantic drama by Michael Mayer, tells the story of two very different men in The Holy Land who fall for each other amidst a setting of MANY challenges. They face not just the differences in their backgrounds, but they are also confronted by the ethnic, ideological, and political tensions of the land that surrounds them-- conflicts that come in equal parts from both their respective Israeli and Palestinian cultures. Early on in the movie, the filmmakers effectively create a strong and effective sense of restlessness just underneath what we see on the screen. It pretty much assures the viewers that the road to these two men's realization of love and happiness will be likely a rocky one.
Roy (Michael Aloni) is an Israeli lawyer from a progressive, affluent, and well-connected family. Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) is a Palestinian psychology student from a much more modest home on the West Bank. Nimr lives with his devoutly religious mother, a devoted sister, and a brother, who's a Palestinian nationalist with a dangerous secret. Nimr has recently been accepted into a prestigious study program in Tel Aviv, and he acquires special privileges to "cross the border" for educational purposes. The two handsome men meet at a dimly lit but lively bar hosted by a flamboyantly likable Palestinian refugee named Mustafa. (In a revealing moment later on in the movie, Nimr tells Roy, "When I first started going out in Tel Aviv, I thought people were going to have a hard time accepting me because of where I'm from. But then I realized, gay guys don't really mind". Roy's mirthful response is, "Well, you know, a dick is a dick!") The physical attraction between Roy and Nimr is mutual and powerful-- although Nimr, with more at stake, is apprehensive at first. Soon, however, the two are soon sharing a secret and sexy late night swim as well as some tender lovemaking sessions. The first sign of trouble appears when Nimr's friend Musafa is brutally beaten and sent back to the West Bank. A conglomerate of antagonistic forces which threaten Roy's and Nimr's nascent relationship are slowly revealed: forces that involve national security, ethnic division, homophobia, and some very unholy alliances in this Holy Land. With their respective families, the men face equally difficult challenges: Roy's seemingly enlightened parents view their son's new relationship as something of a show of novelty or rebellion, and Nimr simply fears that his family will learn that he's gay. When certain truths finally "come out", in fact, the viewer may be shocked to see the suffering that Nimr goes through. Those who are more familiar with the "culture clash" in that region (the secular, gay-friendly atmosphere of Tel Aviv versus the conservative lifestyles of the West Bank) may not be so surprised. Faced with seemingly impossible choices, the pair devise a plan to escape their circumstances and to be together.
"Out in the Dark" is a smart, provocative combination of thriller and romance: a story of how strong passions often live alongside strong political divides, and how the power of love can often transcend differences-- religious, ethnic, or otherwise-- between two people. "Out in the Dark" is not an idealized fairy tale. In fact, director Michael Mayer strives for realism every step of the way-- as difficult as it can be for the two main characters, and as difficult as it can be for the viewer to watch. The conclusion is heavy, but following Mayer's pattern of realism, it never blinks in its naked-eyed view.
"Out in the Dark" is now available on DVD. Visit www.BreakingGlassPictures.com for more.