El Houb (The Love) is a tense family melodrama set within the Dutch-Moroccan community in Holland. Successful young businessman Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui) and his Ghanian boyfriend Kofi (Emmanuel Boafo) are in a state of undress at Karim’s smart apartment when Karim’s father Abbas (Slimane Dazi), a postman, delivers a package and sees Karim in Kofi’s bed. Karim’s conservative, religious, family don’t know that he is gay and his father’s sight prompts Karim to decide to come out to them.
Karim is intense and stressed out at the best of times, and his coming out to his family is no different. He visits his family home and tries to speak to his family about his homosexuality. His family doesn’t know how to react and are worried about the opinions of their close-knit, densely populated, Muslim community. “The truth is not always the solution” snaps Karim’s mother Fatima. Their response is to refuse to discuss anything and Karim is forced to take quite unusual steps to break their ingrained culture of silence, which includes barricading himself in the family’s storage room for days unless they agree to talk to him.
Director Shariff Nasr’s feature debut takes us on an intense, haunting, sometimes humorous, and often sad, journey into the minds and lives of the individual family members as they struggle to understand and express their thoughts, and reconcile their differences. Many people from similar familial, and religious backgrounds will connect with this authentic story, which is based on the true-life experiences of Larhzaoui. Casting directors Susanne Groen and Martha Mojet have done an excellent job with stand-out performances by all cast members, including Lubna Azabal as Karim’s downtrodden, yet intelligent mother, patriarchal Slimane Dazi and Shad Issa as a ten-year-old Karim, who often features in Karim’s flashbacks to his childhood. Beautiful cinematography by Joris Kerbosch complements the strong script and fine acting.
The film shows that, however tough it may seem at times, there can be an alternative to suffering in silence within a family. A genuine love story, in all senses of the word. Highly recommended.
Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah