A Queer Country

A new documentary by British filmmaker Lisa Morgenthau looks at Israel from an LGBT perspective.

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Israel is a complicated country – and that’s a bit of an understatement. Looking at it from the outside, it’s difficult not to see the divisions and intractable conflicts, the secular butting up against very conservative religion, and also that against that backdrop, Tel Aviv holds one of the biggest gay pride parades on the planet.

British filmmaker Lisa Morgenthau’s documentary, A Queer Country, looks at Israel from an LGBT perspective. Initially it feels like it’s going to be an advert for the Tel Aviv Tourist Board, much like Michael Lucas’ Undressing Israel a couple of years ago. However, thankfully it then starts engaging with some of the more interesting and thought-provoking issues queer people in Israel face. For example, the film contrasts the largely secular and open Tel Aviv with the more buttoned down Jerusalem, where gay issues are far more political and difference less tolerated.

It also looks at those who’ve faced difficulties due to the fact Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities rarely accept LGBT people, and who have therefore had to find new ways to honour their beliefs outside the tight-knit world they were once part of. The film also addresses the accusations of pinkwashing that have been levelled against Israel – specifically allegations that the Foreign Ministry has promoted the country’s acceptance of LGBT people to try and deflect criticism from allegations of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

With these and various other issues, the film does a pretty good job of avoiding pushing an agenda, while giving voice to a variety of people who show that things are often far more complicated than they first appear. For example, with pinkwashing, is it a cynical attempt to gloss over the fact not all minorities enjoy the benefits LGBT people do, or is it a legitimate way of promoting a nation that often finds it difficult to get positive stories on the international stage?

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