Entertainment » Movies

MFA GLBT Film Festival :: City of Borders

by Kevin Langson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday May 13, 2009
A scene from "City of Borders."
A scene from "City of Borders."  

Jerusalem is a city of borders, and City of Borders is a document of the treacherous and poetic transgressions of the boundaries, both literal and figurative, that constitute the embattled holy city. This is established from the onset, as Yun Suh's film opens with an image of the infamous wall that separates Palestine from Israel, which leads into a scene of Boody, the film's most flamboyant and vulnerable subject, climbing through it so that he can enjoy a night out at Shushan, the Jerusalem gay bar that the film centers on. It feels like a game at first. Boody smilingly narrates and brushes dirt off on the other side. But, as we know, this wall is symbol to a dire conflict.

Though most of us have likely had considerable exposure to news of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as to stories of being gay where it is extremely dangerous to be so, this film employs the details of brilliantly engaging individuals' lives to renew or bolster interest in these issues. Sa'ar is important to the film and to Jerusalem gay life because he is both the owner of Shushan and the first out local politician; and he meets resistance in both realms, particularly the political where he is impugned by colleagues and threatened (along with his loving mother) by citizens. So, it is understandable that he contemplates an escape to the secular bubble of Tel Aviv, just as Boody regrettably decides to move stateside to avoid persecution. In a heartrending interview moment, Boody swells up with tears when the filmmaker asks him what he will be leaving behind when he leaves Palestine. He concludes by saying, "myself...I will be leaving myself..."

While the stories of these two men pointedly highlight the rampant animosity and violence towards gays on both sides of the fence and their own particular resilience, it is primarily the Israeli-Palestinian lesbian couple, Ravit and Samira, who bring radiance and hope to the story. Both women are candid and exude intelligence and a joy of life that enriches our reception of the tensions between them that we see manifests while they cook together, eat with friends, and sit for conventional interviews. It is comforting to know that their tenacity of affection can weather differences in ethnic background, religious and political convictions, and expectations of family (to mother or not to mother). At one point, Samira's persona deviates from the tough and jocular to relay her discomfiting sensation of "fucking the enemy" while having sex with Ravit, an experience that had psychic repercussions for both of them.

The film derives most of its vitality from the personal tribulations and triumphs- large and small- of the subjects, but it also succeeds in connecting their stories to the larger context of violence towards gays in this region.

The film derives most of its vitality from the personal tribulations and triumphs- large and small- of the subjects, but it also succeeds in connecting their stories to the larger context of violence towards gays in this region. For example, it includes footage of a Jerusalem PRIDE parade in which three people were stabbed; and Adam, one of the victims, is another of the film's subjects. Also memorable are the chilling on-the-street interviews that Suh captures on the streets of Ramallah, in which women and men of various ages bluntly condone attacking gays and claim that they are a blight to their city. The film demonstrates that fervent hatred can still be shocking and that insistent optimism can still be inspiring, even when associated with issues that are not fresh in our consciousness.

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http://www.bostonlgbtfilmfest.org/

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