For a quiet, relationship-driven indie, director Sam Abbas’ first feature film is making some serious noise. “The Wedding,” which opens here Friday, is the first gay-themed film to screen in several Middle Eastern countries, and did so under incredibly tight security, Abbas, an Egyptian-born resident of Bushwick, tells the Post.
The 25-year-old Abbas plays the lead in his film about a conflicted young New Yorker named Rami who’s engaged to his girlfriend (Nikohl Boosheri) and planning their nuptials, while continuing to have trysts with two male lovers. Abbas says elements of the film reflect his own journey (although he doesn’t believe in labeling one’s sexual orientation). He also says his parents, who also live in the US, still don’t know about the film, but he has come to terms — “with a lot of therapy,” he says with a short laugh — with the fact that they will eventually.
The film was secretly shown in November by invitation only in Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt — all countries in which LGBTQ people can face persecution. For his own safety, Abbas was strongly encouraged not to attend. “So I was living vicariously through emails and WhatsApp messages,” he says. “It was a constant fear for people’s safety. And I’m an anxious person to begin with.” The film was shown with a strict set of rules: Guests had to be invited via email, with no plus-ones allowed, no cameras of any kind, and no re-entry. Thankfully, he says, all went “very smoothly.”
“The Wedding” opens at the Cinema Village this weekend and will be accompanied by several Q&A sessions with Abbas, the film’s cast and crew, and fellow filmmakers, among others (more info at CinemaVillage.com). Abbas says he’s not worried about anti-gay violence at these showings: “In the US, worse comes to worst, you can call the police. In the Middle East, they’re the ones supporting it.”
Abbas looks forward to the day when he can show his movies in his native country without secrecy. “We would love to have open screenings, where the public can show up. It’s just not possible now, in the Middle East.”
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