Will they, won’t they?
That’s what gay and other rights activists are wondering about the Beirut International Film Festival as it gets ready for tonight’s screening.
The film chosen in the Panorama section for the 10 pm show tonight is the controversial gay thriller “L’inconnu du lac” (Stranger by the lake), French director Alain Guiraudie’s 2013 work that has won both bouquets and brickbats.
While claiming the best director’s spot at Cannes this year as well as the Queer Palm, the story of the mesmerized man who knows his gay lover is a killer but is still drawn to him and self-destruction, was decried by Parisians, who tore up posters of the disturbing movie.
Now reports say Lebanon’s interior ministry has expressed disapproval of the film and it could be axed from tonight’s screening.
Media reports said the ministry’s censorship board has objected to the film and the French distributor, Les Films du Losange, was quoted as saying it won’t be shown.
The censors were also said to have rejected a second film that deals with the subject of sex as well, “I Offered You Pleasure” by 26-year-old Lebanese director Farah Shaer.
While Shaer’s theme is temporary marriage and deals with straight sex, Guiraudie’s film, besides the graphic sex and violence in the film, revolves round homosexuality, which is banned in most Middle East and Islamic countries.
Though not as draconian as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Pakistan where gays face imprisonment, lashing or death, in Lebanon, men or women caught in same-sex relations can be sent to prison for a year.
The inclusion of “Stranger by the lake” therefore comes as a surprise, especially as the organizers were aware of the contents.
The festival’s blurb for the French film says: Summer time. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel. An attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this but wants to live out his passion anyway.
The festival’s website gave away no clue about the final decision. As per the program there, the film is still scheduled for tonight’s screening.