An Evening in Downtown Tunis: Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival (March 2019)


It’s Spring Break, and I finally have some time off. I had to go downtown because I really missed it.

I decided to attend the last day of the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival (MQFF) at a movie theater downtown. For security reasons the location of the festival is only disclosed if you get in touch with the organizers via social media.

MQFF is organized by Mawjoudin (We Exist), a local LGBTQ+ association that is doing amazing work to protect the LGBTQ+ community and to fight against homophobia.

MQFF is the first festival of its kind in North Africa. It focuses on films directed by artists from the Global South. This is only the second edition of the festival.

The last day featured:

  • Four Pakistani shorts: Three of the films focused on growing up gay in Pakistan. One of them was about Khwja Sara (transgender) culture in the country, and the last one was a documentary about a poor gay Pakistani man. One of the most remarkable scenes in the film was when we see the protagonist teaching his mother to read the Quran in Arabic in the intimacy of her bedroom.
  • Tunisian Feminist Rap Band Honna: Nationalist, humanist, atheist, and erotic rhymes.
  • The world premiere of Marco (2019): a film written and directed by the novelist Saleem Haddad. The film is about a Lebanese gay man in London and the sex worker he hired for one night. The audience really loved the Arab-accented kissing scene and went wild over the foot massage scene. We had to shoosh each other.

    Source: Marco (Twitter Page)
  • Mr. Gay Syria (2017): I had no idea what to expect at first, but the film turned out to be one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. The film is set in Turkey and it documents the gay activist Mahmoud Hassinou’s search for Mr. Gay Syria. Hassinou, a refugee in Berlin, has made it his life’s cause to create more visibility for the Syrian LGBTQ community. The documentary is brilliantly written and directed by Ayse Toprak.

    Source: Doxa Documentary Film Festival

PS: I do not wish to speak in the name of the LGBTQ community in Tunisia. I speak in admiration of their courage, their art, and the colors their bring to our city.

Please check out the Mawjoudin Film’s Festival freshly updated Wikipedia page, and please support Mawjoudin in any way you can.

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