City of Borders Film Review - an Official Selection of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival


City of Borders is a bittersweet documentary that shines a light on the inequality suffered by Gays and Lesbians on the Jerusalem / Palestine border. The film follows the lives of a handful of Gays and Lesbians who have found a small sense of community in the theocratic society that ostracizes them for their sexual orientation. The refuge is a small gay bar called Shushan.

Shushan is the only gay bar that Boody, a Muslim Palestinian knows of. Self professed as Palestine’s “first and only drag queen”, Boody  sneaks over the border regularly, to be with friends, to be free. The oldest of three children, Boody gets death threats regularly, just because he is gay and out. 

Samira (l.) partner & Ravit (r.) in "City of Borders"

Israeli Jew Ravit and Samira, a Palestine/Israeli have been a happy couple ever since they met at the hospital where they both work. They seem well, adjusted and accepting of their different religions and heritage. Still Samira recognizes that for most Israelis, they would rather their child be gay that to have them marry a Palestinian. This couple’s biggest obstacle seems not to be their gay relationship or their clashing cultures, but rather a big problem that rears its ugly head in many committed relationship: Ravit wants children and Samira does not.

Adam (r.) and his partner in "City of Borders"

Adam is an Israeli gay man and an atheist. As a former soldier the differences in culture between Israelis and Palestinians are a touchier subject with him. Likewise, after being the victim of a hate crime (he was stabbed during a Pride Parade), Adam understand better than anyone that silence equals death and he is proud and vocal about claiming his rights as a citizen, regardless of his sexual orientation.

All these gay 20-somethings became friend at the only place for gay kids of age to go, Shushan, opened by Israeli activist and openly gay city council member Sa’ar Netanel. While his motivation for opening the club was both entrepreneurial as well as civic minded, he works hard to rally support and visibility for the Gay community in a society that largely demonizes it.

The documentary echoes the sentiment that condemnation of the Gay and Lesbian community is a unifying cause across religious lines. This small gay community in Jerusalem has seen Muslims, Christians and Jews all united in opposition to Pride events or governmental recognition or representation.

It is particularly extraordinary, in this moment in history, following the Obama speech in Cairo and the new violence that has sprung up after the elections in Iran, that we can not simply take a page from this small community of young people in Jerusalem, where gays and lesbians, Palestinians and Israelis not only co-exist, but find love, companionship and family within that elusive universal spirit that is the celebration of our shared humanity.

City of Borders is a selection from the International Showcase at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival, happening now all over Westwood until June 28, 2009.

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