Unlike previous films made about gay Palestinians in Israel, ‘Oriented’ is not about Jewish saviors trying to protect Palestinians from political or social repercussions.
Three men in their mid-twenties are gathered at a Tel Aviv apartment, preparing to go out to a dance party at a popular Jaffa bar called Anna Loulou. Speaking in Arabic laced with Hebrew expressions and the occasional English phrase, they warm up with vodka and grapefruit juice as they sprawl on the couches, talking and listening to music . Will there be Jews at the party? asks one of the young men. Yes, answers another. There will be some. But they’re leftists. They support us. They’re not coming to sing “Viva la Occupation.” The third says, with heavy irony, “Right, they’re coming to save us.” All three men laugh. “Our saviors,” they say.
“Oriented,” a documentary film directed by Jake Witzenfeld, follows the lives of Khader Abu Seif and his friends Fadi and Naim. All three are gay Palestinian citizens of Israel who live and work in Tel Aviv. They are politically active and assertive about their right to define their own complex identity — and they’re not at all interested in conforming to the expectations of others.
This is probably the first film about gay Palestinians that is blissfully free of cliches. Over a period of about 18 months, the film travels from Tel Aviv to Galilee villages, to Berlin and to Amman. It is a time period that coincides with the 2014 war in Gaza and the immolation of Mohamed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem. As the three men cook meals, dance at parties, lie on the beach and make political statements via choreographed videos they upload to Youtube, they and their friends successfully challenge the received wisdom about homosexual life in the Arab Middle East — particularly the politically loaded templates that are imposed on gay Palestinians by Jewish Israeli society. As Khader, the charismatic protagonist of the film, puts it to a Jewish audience at Tel Aviv’s Open Center for LGBTQ, he is a member of a new generation of Palestinians — one that most people are not familiar with.
Khader, who was born and raised in Jaffa, lives in Tel Aviv with his Jewish partner, who immigrated to Israel as a child from Armenia. His parents, he emphasizes, know he’s gay and accept him. But...Read More