My favorite among those I have previewed is Breaking Fast. It centers on Mohammed (aka Mo), a medical specialist and practicing Muslim living in West Hollywood, who is learning to navigate life one year after his conflicted boyfriend broke up with him. Enter Kal, an all-American kind of guy and a struggling actor Mo meets at his best friend’s birthday party. Kal surprises Mo soon after by offering to break fast with him each night during the holy month of Ramadan. Their attraction to each other grows but Mo is dedicated to making it through Ramadan without succumbing to “lustful” thoughts or actions. While Kal strives to be respect- ful of this, troubling aspects of his personal history begin to intrude on the men’s blossoming relationship. Written and directed by the talented Mike Mosallam, Breaking Fast is significant as the first gay Muslim rom-com. While the film’s first half is rather light and fluffy, its second half becomes more serious. Much of the welcome comic relief throughout is provided by Mo’s flamboyant best friend as well as Mo’s histrionic mother. The movie provides a respectful, intimate glimpse into Muslim family life and traditions even as it doesn’t shy from addressing tensions between faith and sexuality. It also boasts supporting performances by veteran actress Veronica Cartwright (Alien, The Witches of Eastwick) and Patrick Sabongui (TV’s The Flash), plus fabulous homages to Superman: The Movie and The Sound of Music. Tahara, directed by Olivia Peace, is another QFilm entry dealing with the time-honored

conflict between sexuality and faith. Best friends Carrie Lowstein and Hannah Rosen, both Jew- ish, have been inseparable for as long as they can remember. When their former Hebrew school classmate commits suicide, the two girls go to her funeral as well as the “Teen Talk-back” session designed to be an opportunity for them to understand grief through their faith. But, after an innocent kissing exercise turns Carrie’s world inside out, the girls find themselves understand- ably distracted by the teenage complications of lust, social status and wavering faith. Also scheduled to screen is Welcome to Chechnya by David France, director of the Academy

Award-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. His latest searing documentary shadows a group of activists who risk unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive Chechen Republic, which is a federal subject of the Russian Federation. Much of it is driven by Orthodox and evangelical Christian fundamentalism. Mean- while, the recently departed LGBTQ activist, author and playwright Larry Kramer will be honored with a showing of France’s How to Survive a Plague, about the early years of the AIDS pandemic and the efforts of activist groups ACT UP (co-founded by Kramer) and TAG. It also details in part the Roman Catholic Church’s historic oppression of LGBTQ people. An additional feature film highlight during QFilm will be Gossamer Folds. Produced by and

featuring actress Yeardley Smith of The Simpsons, it spins a tender tale of friendship between a lonely boy and his grown-up transgender neighbor, Gossamer, as well as her retired college professor father during the 1980s. A number of great feature documentaries to be screened include: Ahead of the Curve, about

the extraordinary woman who started the renowned Curve magazine and the women who carry on her fight for lesbian visibility today; The Archivettes, an inspiring documentary that profiles the scrappy and determined cross-generational team of women who rescued history from the trash to form the Lesbian Herstory Archives; Double Income, Kids, which explores the Israeli gay baby boom by following Motty and Alon, a gay couple on their year-long journey to have biological twins through their American gestational surrogate; and Changing the Game, Michael Barnett’s dynamic documentary that takes us into the lives of three high school athletes who are all at different stages of their athletic seasons and their personal lives as well as their unique paths as transgender teens. QFilm’s short film programs are some of the best-regarded on the festival circuit, and this

year is no exception. In addition to traditional men’s, women’s and queer/trans shorts lineups, two new short film categories are being introduced this year. Queer Activist shorts will inspire the LGBTQ community and its allies in our ongoing fight for equal rights, to live our truth, love whom we want, or serve in the military. “Dance Like Everyone Is Watching,” meanwhile, will encourage viewers to channel one’s inner Beyoncé with a collection of narrative and documentary-style shorts celebrating the beauty and many movements of dance.

Ahead of the Curve Tahara

Breaking Fast

Gossamer Folds

September 2020 | @theragemonthly 11

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