QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Animals can inflict severe wounds, pain and even kill. They do it with the purpose of feeding or protecting themselves from other species. Except human beings. Human beings are a very strange beast. They can cause physical and psychological damage on each other just for the sake of it. Just for fun. Sadism is the most primitive and precarious of sentiments. Prejudice, hatred and self-loathing provide the fuel.
Brahim (Souflane Chilah) is a 20-something handsome gay men in a Muslim family somewhere in Belgium. He has been in a relationship for five years. He loves his boyfriend. He has never been able to share his sexuality with his family. His parents are kind and doting, yet unlikely to embrace anything relationship outside the established heteronormalcy.
The film opens during the birthday of Brahim”s mother, a boisterous party with numerous guests and vibrant Arabic music. Brahim’s father recites a poem about falling in love with a green and blue-eyed female (presumably Brahim’s mother). Brahim is tense. He doesn’t fit in and hardly has a reason to celebrate. One relative makes it abundantly clear that the family will never tolerate his “choice”. He explains that such tolerance would be deemed an act as subversive as homosexuality: “They would think I like it too”.
This is a Islamophobic movie, which portrays all Muslims inherently intolerant. Brahim’s mother is white. And he encounters the ugliest face of homophobia in the hands of white males around his age. Think about the violence of Larry Clark’s Bully (2001) and the gratuitousness of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997) and you are halfway there. What follows is extremely graphic, harrowing and indeed palpable. In fact, the film is based on a actual story, the name of the real Brahim revealed at the very end of the movie.
This remarkable Belgian film exposes the banality of evil in a very clear and concise fashion. It is possible to inflict unimaginable suffering and carry on with your normal life because you perceive your victim as an inferior race, unworthy of their existence. It is acceptable to drink, to laugh, celebrate your birthday, a wedding and even proclaim love and humanity with your hands dirty, having carried the most unspeakable of atrocities. Significantly, one of Brahim’s tormentors is aptly nicknamed “Hitler”. A bleak and sordid reminder of one of the rotten facets of humanity.
Animals has just premiered in Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. A strong contender for one of the event’s top prizes.