Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Queerguru’s Ris Fatah reviews MIGUELS WAR the story of the very charismatic Miguel Jelelaty


Miguel’s War is a great documentary about the life of the very charismatic Miguel Jelelaty. Miguel grew up gay in a conservative Christian household in Lebanon during the 1970’s. He found it hard to come to terms with his sexuality and his family’s lack of understanding. In 1982, in an attempt to prove his masculinity, he joined the Lebanese Army’s right-wing Christian militia and fought in the civil war. After a while, scared and disillusioned, he deserted the army, and with his Syrian mother’s help, escaped to Spain to build a new life as an out gay man.

Miguel’s arrival in Madrid in the mid 1980’s coincided with a very hedonistic post-Franco period in Spanish history. He likens his new life back then to living in a Pedro Almodovar movie and one can definitely picture the irrepressible Miguel in full outrageous party mode. Miguel has lived a very full life – he admits to having had sex with over 2000 men – but he has never fallen in love. His story is one that many gay men will connect with, and although the documentary doesn’t offer any solutions to his lack of love, it’s refreshing to see this subject covered.

Miguel is a very likable character – he is warm, fun, engaging, candid, at times flippant. Totally relatable. His recollections are often humorous – such as his teenage lust for Lee Majors, the Bionic Man, and also sad – like when he used to take a statue of the Virgin Mary into the shower with him to try and stop himself having gay erotic thoughts.

Director and producer Eliane Raheb uses an unusual story-telling format combining archive footage, stills, some wonderful graphics and includes the casting videos of actors hired to play Miguel’s family members. The result is a beautiful interview-based documentary with Raheb as both interviewer and ‘psychotherapist’, gently and not so gently nudging Miguel to tell his life story and to examine the ghosts of his past. She is a talented director and this innovative documentary format would be great applied to other people. The viewer can’t help wondering what their own version of this documentary would look like. Raheb and Miguel have obviously developed a very close rapport during the production of the documentary and often bicker on camera as Raheb touches on aspects of Miguel’s life that he’d rather not disclose, particularly when discussing Miguel’s actions when he was in the army – details he claims to have forgotten. Beautiful cinematography and an achingly well-compiled soundtrack complement this touching story. The interesting footage and insight into Lebanon’s troubled past are an added bonus.

Lebanon in 2021 is a different place. Although same-sex relationships are still technically illegal, the law is expected to change soon and there is a gay scene with gay bars and clubs. Modern Lebanon is a haven for many LGBTQ+ people from other stricter Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Yemen. One wonders how Miguel’s life would have turned out had he been born into today’s environment.


Review: Ris Fatah 

Queerguru’s newest contributor (when he can be bothered) is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant 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


Ris Fatah reviewed this at the US Premiere at NewFest in NY: for future screenings check out https://www.facebook.com/MiguelsWar


Posted by queerguru  at  11:31


Genres:  documentary, international

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