“THE WEDDING”— A Secret Gay Life

“The Wedding” A Secret Gay Life Amos Lassen  This intriguing autobiographical wee film helmed by Egyptian/American filmmaker Sam Abbas  who wrote, directed and stars in this autobiographical film.  Rami (Sam Abbas), a Muslim, leads a secret gay lifestyle that his fiancée, Sara (Nikohl Boosheri), whom he resides with in New York City does not know about. Sara tries to get him to plan the details of the wedding and honeymoon, but Rami seems disinterested. He also feels pressured by his mother, Abir ( Hend Ayoub), who calls and texts him in hopes of helping him with his wedding plans. Meanwhile, he has  been carrying nsexually-charged affairs with two men, Lee (Harry Aspinwall) and Tom (James Penfold).  
The screenplay avoids flashbacks, melodrama, cheesiness, edge-of-your-seat suspense and big twists and cheesiness and goes instead for a stark “slice-of-life.” You never learn how Rami and Sara met nor how long they’ve been together or what their childhood was like. The lack of exposition puts a lot of faith in the audience’s imagination and intelligence. When Rami masturbates, at first you don’t quite know what he’s doing because it’s shot from a distance outside of his room and he’s blocked by part of a wall, but you soon realize that he’s probably masturbating to porn—although you never learn what kind of porn. Sara texts a friend of hers, Marco (John Hein), who may or may not be more than just a friend. This is clearly the kind of film that leaves some things open to interpretation.        The cinematography, set design and scene compositions enrich film with meaning but  the long shots make it  hard to tell what the characters think or to feel their warmth. One such beautifully-shot scene that feels cold is when Rami stares into the distance at a Hudson River pier; we only see him from behind far away. We understand that Rami is emotionally distant from Sara, that doesn’t mean that he has to be distant from the audience. The film ultimately left me cold and underwhelmed and it could easily have done the opposite. The closest we ever see Rami express any emotion at all is when he is with one of this two male affairs.  He is leading this double life stringing everyone along until Sara listens to a voicemail on Rami’s phone and discovers the real reason for his reluctance to agree on the wedding plans. Abbas shoots the whole thing in a dim light using the fixed frames which are positioned at a distance from the action and this makes the already slow pace seem even slower and dissipates the little energy there is. The only hint of any passion is when Sara discovers Rami has been sleeping with Lee and finally blows up.
There are plenty of gaps in the story but that is definitely to Abbas’ credit for allowing audiences to use their imagination filling them in.  The back story of the making of Abbas’s debut feature is  fascinating as Abbas’ company ARABQ Films has a mission to produce queer-themed movies which can only operate virtually in the country’s increasingly authoritarian and state-sanctioned, virulently homophobic laws and in all likelihood, the films will not be screened in Egypt.

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