At the HotDocs documentary film festival recently, there was an unusual documentary film that stood out among the rest! The North American largest documentary film festival is also unusual in a sense that it had extra security because there was a self-made autobiographical documentary with the title ‘A Sinner In Mecca‘ with the film-maker Parvez Sharma receiving death threats for making the documentary, as reported by Guardian, UK.
The autobiographical film was made by Parvez Sharma, a gay man who was born in India but raised in America. It narrates his journey as a gay man and Muslim making the pilgrimage or ‘Haj’ to the holy land, which is one of the four pillars or ‘rukun’ in Islam where every Muslim must fulfill in their lifetime. The film explores the limits for a gay Muslim like him who is born as a Muslim and has every right to seek God and to perform the Haj and yet so abominated by his religion. Sharma made the film surreptitiously by concealing his camera because the holy site of Mecca bans all camera and filming.
It is well known that homosexuality is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and gays are at best invisible in the Kingdom.
But the central message of ‘A Sinner In Mecca‘ is to explore the question on whether a gay man like him could possibly be a good Muslim too? The film also explores his inner struggle with the dogmas of his faith and the ‘Wahabism’ or hardlined elements that dominates the present setting of the religion, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
“I need evidence that my faith is strong enough to survive this journey,” he explains early in the film, which was recorded on a cameraphone and two smuggled-in cameras.
“If anything,” he says, “my faith seems to disappear in this very place.” What he confronts is “the frontline of Islam” – never-before-filmed streets dominated by peace-loving pilgrims, and a government-supported bastardization of the religion that bears little resemblance to the faiths of most Muslims. It’s a Saudi Arabia never seen before on film, one that its secretive monarchy does not want the world to discover.
‘A Sinner in Mecca’ explores what it means to believe in the face of religious manipulation and government corruption. Sharma’s bravery is not only that he was a gay man in Mecca, but that he is a Muslim questioning and reclaiming his faith from the authorities exporting it as violent conservatism, as reported by Guardian. UK.