At the start of “Mixed Kebab” (2012) written and directed by Guy Lee Thys (whose 2002 movie “Kassablanka” portraying a romance between a Moroccan Romeo and a Flemish Juliet in Antwerp, I have not seen), its protagonist (Cem Akkanat) introduces himself (in voiceover): “I’m Ibrahim, I’m Turkish. I’m ‘Bram [short and de-Muslimized for Ibrahim], I’m Belgian. I am a Muslim … and I’m gay.” He’s in love or at least infatuated with blue-eyed (Flemish) Kevin (Simon Van Buyten), who works at a cafe run by his mother, Marina (Karlijn Sileghem), The usually confident Bram who works as a caterer and deals cocaine is uncertain of Kevin’s sexual orientation at the beginning.
At home, where he is Ibrahim and doted on as a model/traditional good-Muslim son by his parents (Ergun Simsek, Tanja Cnaepkens), who emigrated from Turkey, the black sheep of the family, Ibrahim’s younger brother junior-thug Furkan (Lukas De Wolf) outs Ibrahim, except that the parents refuse to believe him (what I have called “the will to know”).
The parents have arranged a marriage back in Turkey for Ibrahim with a cousin Elif (Gamze Tazim), who is more cosmopolitan and freedom-seeking than her prospective in-laws know. Ibrahim takes Kevin along on the trip to Turkey to make final arrangements. They are indiscreet enough to be photographed by a hotel porter (Hakan Gurkan) with whom Elif had been sexually involved in the past. Wanting to get to Northwestern Europe, she is no more deterred by the photos than Ibrahim’s parents were by Furkan trying to out him, though in this instance this is advancing her own agenda rather than willed ignorance of Ibrahim’s homosexuality. Not that the photos will stir up no trouble… leading to Ibrahim being disowned by his father back in Belgium, and to a fagbashing /knifing.
The plot, including the violence and rapid acceptance, seem contrived, more than the denouements of “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “The Wedding Banquet,” though comparably to the happy ending (love and acceptance) of “Le fil” and “A Touch of Pink.” On the other hand, the movie foregoes fraternal acceptance that seems a bit too good to be true in “T imes Have Been Better ” and “Every Day.” After Ibrahim is ejected from the family, Furkan becomes increasingly zealous a Muslim, finding a sense of belonging as zealots of various religions (Christians as well as Muslims, etc. do).
(The TLA DVD includes cast interviews, a trailer for the movie, and Nelson’s music video of “Let Me Be Myself” with bits of the movie (including Bram labeling himself ‘homo’.)
In that Illir (Guillaume Gouix, who was born in 1983) in writer-director David Lambert’s debut, “Hors le murs” (Beyond the Walls), another 2012 Belgian movie about interethnic same-sex coupling, is Albanian, I presume he is Muslim and that his younger partner, the slender, blond Paolo (Matila Malliarakis, who was born in 1986-), was raised Christian. Though Illir is involved in a weekend school to maintain the culture of children of Albanian descent in Brussels, neither ethnic nor religious differences are mentioned or play any part in the movie.
It starts with Paulo getting very drunk in a bar where Ilir works.. I would think that someone who works in a bar would not better than to take someone home whom he literally has to carry up the stairs and dump in bed (and chooses not to ravage). Paolo is living with a woman named Anka (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin), who works in a dress shop and reads feminist Virginie Despente’s King Kong Theory in bed with Paolo, tires of his wandering off to have sex with other males and kicks him out a few days after his night passed out in Ilir’s bed and Paolo arrives with all his stuff at Ilir’s door. Ilir’s sister is visiting and is even more dubious than Ilir about Paolo staying there.
Nevertheless, they become a couple and buy a chastity device into which Ilir locks Paolo’s penis when he is going away for the weekend. When Ilir does not return, Paolo goes back to the store and the proprietor , Gregoire [David Salles ), unlocks the device and takes Paolo into his bed, his dungeon, and employment in his shop. (Paolo also plays piano accompaniment for silent movies, and took Ilir to a screening of Victor Sjöstrom’s “The Wind” at which someone else was playing)…
I don’t want to fall afoul of plot-spoiling to reveal what prevented Ilir getting back with the key or the other melodrama involved. Claims have been made that “Beyond the Walls” (a title that I do not understand, btw) is about average blokes and not sensationalized, akin to the British film “The Weekend” about contemporary gay hooking up and struggling with commitment. I think there is some sensationalized melodrama (as with the ultimately failed relationship in Ira Sach’s “Keep the Lights On”), though I’d agree that neither of the leads has moviestar good looks and that neither one is special. I can to a degree sympathize with the frustrations each of them feels. That “the course of true love ne’re runs smooth” is a cliché, besides which it is easy to doubt that the ad hoc living arrangements are “true love.” The match Paolo makes while Ilir is away is clearly not “true love,” but seems more solidly based in affection.
There are some funny moments in both movies, solid performances, and good camerawork (by Björn Charpentier and Matthieu Poirot-Delpech [Adventures of Felix], respectively). I prefer “Mixed Kebab,” as is probably obvious from my discussion of the two movies.
The only extras on “Beyond the Walls” (which has burnt-in subtitles) are the film’s trailer and trailers for other Strand releases.