“El Houb” (“The Love”) tells the story of Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui), a young Moroccan-Dutch man caught by his father with another man, who rushes home to finally talk to his parents about the truth he’s hidden from them for so long. What follows is a difficult but necessary confrontation as Karim, after years of keeping up appearances, finally opens up about the fact that he’s gay — but can he expect acceptance from his family if he still hasn’t come to terms with his sexuality?
Watch the trailer, exclusively at TheWrap, at the top of the page.
The intimate new drama from writer-director Shariff Nasr defies stereotypes about Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) immigrant communities, examining how for many in this situation, the challenge to overcome isn’t hate or bigotry, but silence. Starring Larhzaoui, Lubna Azabal, and Slimane Dazi, “El Houb” was written by Nasr, Philip Delmaar and Fahd Larhzaoui, and produced by Joram Willink of BIND, the film will be released in theaters March 31, and available April 4 on DVD and digital formats from Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment.
“El Houb” is inspired by Larhzaoui’s personal experiences coming out to his family and focuses on the silent culture the director has observed in MENA families, not just about sexuality but cultural taboos in general.
“Whenever I visit my family in the Middle East, I am overloaded with love,” Nasr said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “One day I suddenly asked myself: ‘Would all these caring people still love me the same if I developed romantic feelings for other men?’ I believe they would. Usually, I see stories about LGBTQ+ in the MENA [Middle Eastern and North African] community presented in the media in this way: You either choose your family or your sexual orientation. But reality is not that black-and-white. The issue with these subjects is that they’re just not discussed. Therefore, they’re treated as if it they don’t exist. This is the train of thought that sparked the inspiration for the story of this film: What would happen if our main character, Karim, forced his parents to have these conversations?”
“Family relationships are very important in MENA culture. The feeling of belonging to a community is beautiful, but sometimes that love can also be suffocating,” Nasr continued. “When everybody wants to do the right thing, and when your behavior doesn’t fit within the accepted social norms, shame kicks in. Because of shame, expressing your most vulnerable feelings in a MENA household – feelings like ‘”‘I feel sad'”‘ or ‘”‘I am in love'”‘ – it’s not always a given. When a Moroccan friend of mine revealed to me he was depressed and I asked him if his parents already knew, he laughed at me. He couldn’t even fathom this conversation ever taking place, let alone how it would go.”
“You don’t air your dirty laundry in public, because your problems will leave a stain on the other family members too. Social beliefs like these are the reason why it’s not that simple to break the silence: it’s perceived as ungrateful and disrespectful,” Nasr added. “When you come out of the closet, your whole family comes out of the closet. In individual conversations you’re often able to discuss LGBT rights and acceptance, however this is not the case yet when it comes down to public debates.”
“In ‘El Houb’ the ‘culture of silence’ is the main dramatic core,” Nasr explained. “It starts out with Karim’s coming-out, but then we realize that breaking the culture of silence turns is the real obstacle. The need to fit in leads to so much self-hatred, that Karim can’t keep up appearances anymore. He’s deprived of a choice, because the double life he’s been leading is literally destroying him. But like the title says ‘El Houb’ is about love: First of all, the love of the family for Karim and the other way around. Secondly, it shows the struggle of Karim falling in love with another person, who just happens to be a man.”
“In order to accept that homosexuality is real, first we have to talk about these subjects. It is not a disease you can fix. As long as we keep losing so many depressed people who can’t see any other way than stepping out of life, we’ll need to talk about it. As long as families are torn apart, as long as people are being beaten up in the streets for simply being in love with someone that doesn’t fit in the social norm, we’ll need to talk about it. It’s heart-breaking to even think about having to feel ashamed of holding hands with the person you’re so immensely in love with. Every form of consensual love should be experienced and pursued without shame. I truly hope that with this movie we can start a conversation about creating a safer space for everyone to talk about personal struggles, and especially for the LGBTQ community,” Nasr said.
See the poster for the film below: