CineQ: My God, I'm Queer (Dir. Matt Mahmood-Ogston)
Updated: Nov 20
A story made with heart, made with soul, made with honesty
This short documentary opens with a cry stating, "It is okay for you to be a Muslim and for you to be gay,", followed by its critics booing and calling out "Shame! Shame!". All of this is done over the titles without pictures as of yet. It feels like a statement that is wanting to be heard but clearly, it is being rejected and pushed to one side. And what director Matt Mahmood-Ogston wants to do here is set the story for the audience of what had happened to his partner Naz very early on. On the 30th June 2014, Doctor Naz Mahmood took his own life after coming out to his parents who had, in turn, rejected him.
This story was also told briefly in the Rainbow Films documentary, Pride and Protest. But whether you know this story or not, Mohammod-Ogston wanted to start the documentary off with statement and the shaming and then Naz and Matt's story off to create a very strong impact as well as a message. Naz was of Muslim faith and Matt was a white man, and what the documentary then tells us is how being of that particular faith can cause hardship and risk of being shunned if you are not heterosexual. The one question Matt does ask, however, is "Would he be alive if they reacted differently?"
Following this, we see a whole range of different people who are of LGBT and ethnic background discussing how they come out, more specifically to their families and the difficulties they had faced. We meet Mani who is middle-aged and queer who tells us that "Pakistan is the worst country for gay people." He also discusses that if he were to move back to Pakistan from the UK, there is a chance he would be killed for his sexuality. Young Italian-Bengali Sadia talks on even though she is close with her mother even after coming out to her, she says her mother does not want to talk about her sexuality.
The camerawork and the way that the documentary has been constructed is done in a way to make it seemed more focus. By following these many different people and hearing their experience Mahmmod-Ogston wanted to share with audiences just how hard it can be for people of an ethnic background to come out as gay, or lesbian, or bi, or anything else but straight. Mahmood-Ogston wants to make know to the audience that this isn't just his and Naz's story but a story by a lot of others who are or have suffered these challenges.
There is a lot of slow-motion in certain shots of the documentary; many of which are when some of the contributors are celebrating in Pride parades, which gives a sense of awe particularly when the subject of them talking about coming out is not an easy thing to do. The slow-mo especially works well with one of the contributors, Sanah. Sanah does spoken word and recites her "My Dua is Love" (Dua meaning "invocation") poem. This speaks of love flowing through her body and another "her's", she defines, body and how we are "holy", before ending with "It is not a sin." As well as the slow-motion and the mid-shot angle which is used, what is also impressive is that the words don't come out of her mouth. Instead, a voiceover is used through, and very slowly you can see as she gets near the end of it, she starts to form a smile - which I believe gives the invocation of hope.
I liked this doc a lot and I think that it's a credit to Matt's direction of how he wanted this story to be told. He carries on the legacy of his partner, my speaking to other people who have dealt with similar situations when it comes to coming out to their families. The camerawork and the cutting to each different person seem to make it feel as if director Mahmood-Ogston wanted the audience to be close and intimate with of them. It doesn't go back and forth. Instead, even in its 29 minute running time, each of these contributors can tell their own stories effectively, and it is I believe a story made with heart, made with soul, made with honesty... made with an invocation of love.
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