Paper Example on LGBTQ in the Arab Cinema Industry

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1877 Words
Date:  2022-09-12


Less than a third of Arabic films released in 2018 featured an LGBTQ character according to information published by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The organisation argues that movies or films ought to include stories of LGBTQ individuals, transgender, and people of colour. Today, the notion presenting gays or homosexuals as "bereft of the community" is no longer viable (Formby, 2017). Formby (2017) further explains the existence of the LGBTQ community in society as the new normal. It is envisaged that they are here to stay as it their right.

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The representation of LGBTQ on the Arabic screens has faced multiple challenges due to cultural rules and religious affiliations. Numerous filmmakers such as Sam Abbas and Antony Chidiac have always encountered critiques and condemnation from the Arabic community because their idea is to challenge rules and regulations that have presided over the Arab countries for years; they have, however, not succeeded according to Casadei (2019).

Several authors such as Casadei (2019), (Tolino, 2014) and Bourns (2016) argue that filmmakers like Abbas and Chidiac have tried to adopt new ways such as inclusion as well as non-conventional strategies to share their stories. Bourn (2016) has a more positive outlook, showing expressly from the viewpoint of the LGBTQ society, how these filmmakers generally concur that there is not enough being done to endorse positive images in the film. According to Tolino (2014), this is why GLAAD has advanced its participation in the international dialogue on liberty, democracy, and reforms. Casadei (2019) particularly argues that this is to shape the path towards equality of the LGBTQ rights in the United Arab regions. This paper will focus on the representation of LGBTQ in the Arab Cinema and the reason for its slow progress. The report will also highlight the challenges filmmakers face in trying to represent the LGBTQ community in Arabic nations.

Although De Angelo and Tolino (2017) claim that Bourn's (2016) case on LGBTQ was influential over the years, it has been treated with increasing skepticism since the early 90s, when Egypt started to film LGBTQ characters. According to Bourn (2016), Egypt is among the first Arabic States to establish a national cinematic industry that featured LGBTQ's in the 20th century. The LGBTQ communities in ancient Egypt were subjected to prejudice and marginalization. De Angelo and Tolino (2017) support this argument by stating that LGBTQ characters in Egyptian movies have always been viewed as stereotypes that promote same-sex relationships in the Middle East as well as in Egypt. Besides, Habib (2012) says these films are seen as indications of moral decay and intellectual degeneration of the Arabian cultures.

Bourn (2016) argues that the description of LGBTQ in the Arab cinema has faced critiques from opposing nations such as Bahrain because they believe such demonstrations negatively affect the structure of Muslim society. For instance, Bahrain will not allow such demonstrations in their streets. Bourn (2016) argues that directors of these movies showcase the rights of the minority LGBTQ people in Arab nations. They do this to demonstrate the minority's freedom and justice for being queer and different.

De Angelo and Tolino (2017) are among the few writers who manage to illustrate how homosexuality is tackled in films. According to the two authors, "the only way people can understand homosexuality is through movies." The approach of film making offers a picture of the kind of generation that existed way before homosexuality was made public. However, Kholeif (2011) disagrees with De Angelo and Tolino by stating the reason for the movies is for reconciling Egypt and the rest of the world. According to De Angelo and Tolino, these movies play a significant role in identifying the rights of LGBTQ communities in the Arab states that have been subjected to neglect and prejudice by society. Undoubtedly, in as far as the role of the movies featuring LGBTQ characters in Arab countries is concerned; Kholeif's argument holds more water than that of De Angelo and Tolino. Given that Egypt is an Arab country guided by the tenets of Islam, it serves as a representation of the entire Muslim society. Hence, movies made in Egypt, featuring LGBTQ members, help the entire world to get a glimpse of the challenges of being an LGBTQ member in a predominantly Muslim society.

However, the representation of these characters in the film hardly spent less than three minutes of screen time. The limited time of featuring LGBTQ characters is as a result of the restriction that homosexuality is prohibited in Arab countries (Swedenburg, 2017). As a result, films that have portrayed the LGBTQ have been pulled down from the Arabic movie studios causing disappointments to the people who support the LGBTQ community (Casadei, 2019). The literature point of view here is distorted. It is a gap such that despite the efforts carried out, there are still Arabic nations that do not conform to airing LGBTQ movies.

Casadei (2019) disagrees with De Angelo and Tolino's (2017) argument about the Egyptian approach to film making. In his case, Casadei (2019) states that the directors of modern film attempt to view how the world considers contemporary fiction by Egyptian filmmakers. Casadei says the purpose of featuring the LGBTQ characters in a movie is to apply the understanding of behaviors and practices of some people in a nation. Casadei believes that the representation of LGBTQ characters in a film helps people understand the roots and the characteristics of the diverse people in the Arab community. This is a logical argument considering the fact that Arab communities and families have close ties that prevent individuals from sharing what they consider as unacceptable behavior with the rest of the world.

Also, Casadei (2019) disagrees with Kholeif's (2011) argument that states homosexuality representation in the film "Reconciling Egyptian Film's Place" is a taboo in modern Arabic societies. The reason is that it gives out falsified information to the community. According to Casadei (2019), the exposure of homoerotic traits in the modern world is slowly finding its way into the Arabic screens despite the restrictions put into place to censor what viewers watch. In his opinion, Casadei (2019) thinks that it is unfair for the media to allow opposite sexual partners, to air erotic scenes in a movie and yet forbid homosexuals as well as transgender show-casing the same. Besides, Kholeif (2011) believes that the LGBTQ community in the physical world is at liberty to considered and respected like everyone else and not treated poorly.

In support of Casadei (2019), Dalacoura (2014) argues that LGBTQ activities in Arab states believe that there is a bright future for the growth of the gay community. In his opinion, Dalacoura (2014) states that the acceptance and critiques from the audience should support and well as prefer gay tragedies to be featured in movies. Besides, Casadei believes that the acceptance of LGBTQ is a sign of the stringent Arabic culture, accommodating the issue of sexuality. The relevance here means that the demonstration of LGBTQ in the film supports these people to accept themselves and continue with their lifestyles since it is part of nature.

According to Shannahan (2009),' Muslim communities that live in America have always had a fraught and challenging relationship with sex, with most of them practicing the act of pin secrecy and shame'. Bourn, however, dissuades this argument by stating the relevance of film making to the LGBTQ society. However, sexual repression in Arab states has been on the rise through the years that is from 1935 onwards (Bourn, 2016). Bourn also says that there is evidence to suggest that the queer community wants to see themselves represented on stage (Bourn, 2016).

Nowlan (2010) agrees with Hassan (2010) that the purpose of featuring such films in the Middle East is to allow the LGBTQ community to watch and appreciate themselves. In both texts, it difficult for the movie to be featured in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Turkey. Besides that, countries such as Pakistan and Lebanon have accepted the LGBTQ community. It is attributed to increased questioning and treatment of this community by the nations that have adopted them, such as Pakistan.

In a movie that was published in the year1963 by Hassan al-Immam, Al Madak Alley homosexuality is seen. The video demonstrates the fear of posting such a film in the Arab region because it is portrayed as an entity that can repeatedly affect the political belief of the Quran. White (2015) believes that such movies fail to show the whole of LGBTQ practices because people are fighting for their rights and have to hide their identities. Besides that, movies in Arab states have strictly given conditions on how such a film should be aired through the implementation of viewer discretion programs. The treatment of lesbianism has been more debatable than homoerotic scenes in cinema. In support of White (2015), Shomali (2015), as well as Swedenburg (2017), agree that the current hegemonic categories of sexual orientation have not been embedded in the sense of Arabic culture. Therefore, a potential shortcoming in the adaptation of LGBTQ into the Arabic screens.

As suggested by Bourn (2016), the rules and regulations set for LGBTQ practices forbid filmmakers from analyzing the real issues within the region. As stated in both texts, the reality is ugly for LGBTQ Muslims who seek asylum elsewhere. Through the LGBTQ community, filmmakers in the Middle East have been searching for justification of their rights through movies to avoid any contradiction (Hassan, 2010).


This literature review provides a burgeoning body of studies that provide a wide range of information on LGBTQ in the Arab Cinema Industry. The studies provide a wide range of views on the struggles of members of the LGBTQ community in Arab countries as featured in Arab movies. Not only is the literature provided in the review relevant to the topic of study but it also presents weighty points that will be used in the development of the final paper. One point of contention among the authors covered in the review is the role that the LGBTQ movies play in the Arab society. The Muslim Arabic world is well known the world over for its stringent and never bending the rules especially when it comes to their religion. The filmmakers have taken this opportunity to demonstrate the need for LGBTQ rights to be imposed to avoid incidents of shame due to the denial of human rights. The primary purpose of the LGBTQ representation is to demonstrate openness and freedom to engage in same-sex marriage. Homophobia surrounding LGBTQ is linked with modernization, which is viewed as the catalyst that propagates such heinous practices. But as Nowlan and Casadei illustrate from the literature above is that times are changing. Modernisation is the tool that is bound to bring the needed changes in the Arab film industry. The LGBTQ has a right to be seen and to be heard.


Bourn, D. (2016). "Struggles in body and spirit: Religion and LGBTQ people in US history". In M E Springate (ed.), LGBTQAmerica: A theme study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer history. Washington DC; National Park Foundation, pp.36-38.

Casadei, T., (2019). "Jura Gentium. Rivista di filosofia del diritto internazionale e della politica globale". In Via Delle Pandette.Journal of Philosophy of International Law and Global Politics;Department of Legal Sciences- University of Florence; Vol. XV, n. 21, Anno (2018).

Dalacoura, K., (2014). "Homosexuality as the cultural battleground in the Middle East".Culture and postcolonial international theory. Third World Quarterly. London School,35(7), pp.1290-1306.

De Angelo, C., and Tolino,...

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