★★★★★ | The Invisible Men
Louie is a 32-year-old Palestinian who tries to live his life unobtrusively hidden away from society’s prying eyes. He has no legal right to live in Israel, and thus without papers he must continually avoid any confrontation with the police or officialdom, as if he returns back across the border he risks the very real death threats from his own family and all simply because he’s gay.
This remarkable award-winning documentary from Israeli filmmaker Yariv Mozer tracks Louie as he goes about his daily life in Tel Aviv. A somewhat shy, introverted and extremely likeable young man, Louie survives by doing odd jobs of work and constantly moving apartments as he tries to keep one step ahead of the authorities all the time. On the several times he is caught, the police deport him back to Ramallah, but yet somehow this quiet resourceful man soon manages to very soon sneak back into Israel once again. It’s a harrowing existence and when he relates the lurid details to Mozer of how his family tied him up and tried to slaughter him like an animal, you know that he has no other choice if he wants to live.
After what seems like just one to many deportations, Louie contacts a refugee law centre at the university and discovers that there is a possible way out from this predicament. Under international law he can apply for asylum in another country (that will be chosen for him) and resettle there. There are no guarantees he will be awarded this and he is warned that his chances of succeeding are slim. A skeptical Louie is put in touch with Abdu another gay Palestinian who has already been accepted and is about to leave for his yet unknown new country/home. Abdu, an outgoing extrovert, is totally opposite to Louie and he shows his new timid friend a whole underground gay movement that Louis finds hard to believe.
Months later when Louie gets word that he has won a much coveted asylum place, he starts having very serious second thoughts. Israel has been his home for the past 10 years, and although it has been a scary and dangerous existence, he feels a great draw as this is where he believes he truly belongs, despite all the pain and heartache that he has been through, he really wants to stay.
Mozer tells Louie’s emotional charged story without disguising his own attachment, but he does sensibly refrain from making any comment at all on the tense political situation that engulfs this whole region. It’s a humanitarian tale that will shock most of us living in the West to realise (or be reminded) that being gay in any Arab country puts your very life at risk, and being Palestinian in a country where you are illegal, which in Louie’s case was his birthplace, seems so very unjust.
An extremely moving heartbreaking story that is sensitively documented, and that will rightly jerk you out of your comfort zone… it’s very definitely unmissable.
P.S. Louie is safely living somewhere in Europe coping with the snow, but as Yariv Mozer has told us he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. However he’s alive and well and even getting some assistance to help him heal his emotional scars. He is one of the lucky ones.