Accenture Gala film Out In The Dark is a timely drama of race and sexuality set on the turbulent border between Palestine and Israel. Debut feature director Michael Mayer crafts an engaging but not entirely radical critique of the lacking ability to accept in both Israeli and Palestinian culture.
Nimr (Nicolas Jacob) is a young gay Palestinian man, who crosses the border to Tel Aviv to meet friends in Israeli gay bars, which prove more accepting towards Palestinians than wider Israeli society. One night Nimr meets Roy (Michael Aloni), a young and successful Israeli lawyer who works for his father and the two rapidly fall for each other.
Nimr’s homosexuality remains a secret in his native Palestine where he lives with his seemingly moderate Muslim family. Nimr’s family believe that his travels to Tel Aviv are exclusively for the purpose of his education (he is a budding psychologist), but when they discover his additional motive their caring outlook immediately transforms into one of stone cold conservatism. The family eject Nimr out of shame, according to the wishes of his radical brother Nabil (Jameel Khouri.)
Though the film crew was intentionally assembled from both Israelis and Palestinians, Out In The Dark feels limited in its portrayal of its characters on both sides of the border. Jacob and Aloni do excellent work carrying off the central emotional dynamic, yet the peripheral characters border on stereotype. Nimr’s brother Nabil, a radical anti-Israeli, is villainised without a meaningful emotional context for his burgeoning violent behaviour (apart from the apparent lack of a father, which can only serve as a red herring.)
The exploitative Israeli security forces are represented as a similarly brutish force, as are the Israeli gangsters that Roy encounters as regular clients. However, by constructing villainous scapegoats for the ills of the respective societies, Out In The Dark opts to forgo a nuanced or brave perspective. Reading between the lines we know that the problems between Israel and Palestine are not to do with tough guys and gangsters, but a deep-seated racial and religious apartheid instead.
Ultimately though the film’s theme of ‘acceptance’ keeps the drama on track and we realise with regret how Nimr’s fate is destined to conclude. As long as fear presides over acceptance in a society, minorities like Nimr will continue to become lost souls; for that reason Out In the Dark’s final image speaks a timeless (& borderless) truth.