›› Mixed Kebab
a film by Guy Lee Thys.
2012 | 96 mins | Belgium - Turkey.
principal players: Cem Akkanat / Ibrahim aka Bram, Simon Van Buyten / Kevin, Gamze Tazim / Elif, Lukas De Wolf / Furkan, Ergun Simsek / Mehmet, Karlijn Sileghem / Marina, Tanja Cnaepkens / Fatma, Hakan Gurkan / Yusuf, Recep Yagizoglu / Kemal, Gökhan Girginol / Radu and Kristof Pichaud as Mourad.
cameo appearance by Guy Lee Thys as a café patron.
Adapted Synopsis: "Cutie Bram lives a double life; to his father he is the dutiful son, that of the model image of a Muslim; yet to others he is gay man, closeted to his family, if only too happy to party around Antwerp with his newfound best friend Kevin. Two worlds that are set to collide when Bram leaves for Turkey to meet his wife-to-be and cousin Elif. Only with Kevin by his side, Bram finds himself torn between honouring family tradition, or rejoicing in a platonic friendship that rapidly turns into a seductive love affair."
Opening with a direct-to-camera styled voice-over that sets the "Turkish Muslin having a gay ole time in Belgium" narrative stage, here we find writer and director Guy Lee Thys delight in reworking the arranged marriage scenario, along the way acutely illustrating the pressures to succumb to social and religious conformity, against the call of one's heart.
Yet and in as much as the loving pair excel in their roles, in particular Cem Akkanat who as a man of two identities beautifully conveys the emotional rollercoaster ride of a closeted son outed to his family by those with interests of their own, the scene stealing turn however lies with Lukas De Wolf, as Bram's brother Furkan. A hoodlum in every sense of the word, this is a man whose inner rage finds him seduced by Islamic fundamentalist, to the point that one sequence in particular can only be described as one of the most brutal acts of sexual hate crime seen in gay cinema. Thankfully there's a redeeming Post Scriptum to the scene in question, but such is its bloody extremity, that it is for this reason that the film merited an adult classification, as opposed to any sexual shenanigans between the boys. That the pair get down to some man-on-man action, goes without saying, mild as it is, with shades of the Ferzan Ozpetek classic Hamam to be found in all of its Turkish glory.
Enjoying some Turkish delight in Mixed Kebab.
That said and for all of the homophobia of the piece and here cue a father who disowns his gay son and the devoted mother caught between them, this is but a work on tolerance, with the open arms of loving acceptance joyously to be found in Karlijn Sileghem's portrayal of Kevin's mother Marina, that of a "breakfast in bed" styled approach that is set to see her American diner merge into an annex to the local gay bar.
A call to arms in Mixed Kebab.
True, the seemingly oxymoron that for many is religion and personal freedom dominates the narrative, namely a second-generation vying to reconcile themselves with their heritage; be it Turkish, but Belgian or gay and Muslim. Yet this is first and foremost a love story, with Thys going out of his way to tease his audience over Kevin's "gay or straight" sexual orientation - as if there was any doubt. Backed by a series of splendid performances, together with a captivating score that compliments the solid camera work of Björn Charpentier, the result makes for a thought-provoking film on what it means to be gay and Muslim in today's society, serious issues that are wonderfully juxtaposed with comical asides throughout. Just be warned that amongst all of the light-hearted sweetness of the piece, lies the shocking bitterness of barbaric bigotry.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.