Tracking the unlikely love affair of hunky, closeted gay Muslim from a traditional Turkish family and a blond Belgium boy, Mixed Kebab vividly delves into class, culture and bigotry. Bram lives a double-life, at once a dutifully religious muslim, and also a casual drug dealer and closeted gay man. When Bram flies off to Turkey to meet his future wife he brings his stunning friend Kevin, and soon an illicit love affair develops between the two men. Faced with with no choice but to navigate between these two opposing worlds things soon come to an explosive crossroad. Exciting, sexy and endlessly though-provoking Mixed Kebab is about a young man caught not just between two worlds, but four: traditional and modern, gay and straight.
This is an excellent and brave film , showing the struggle to live as a muslim in Belgium and to be true to yourself and yet loyal to your family. Bram is a closeted gay man who sometimes sells drugs . His brother is a local thug who becomes radicalised . Who is the good son ?. Bram goes to turkey with his lover , when he is supposed to be meeting his fiancé . She just dreams of escaping to a life of freedom . There is nothing preachy or sentimental , just the struggle between the traditional and the modern worlds . Plus its an eye candy love story too .
Mixed Kebab is so much more than a 'gay' movie. Rather it seeks to address many important contradictions within the Turkish family of its main character. That family finds itself working, living and experiencing life within a liberal democracy, yet its members are torn between tradition and the expectations of a close knit community which finds identity in that tradition and culture. Marriage is expected, and even if such is arranged (despite the advances of a modern age), the community founds its identity in concepts of traditional family, and the need to preserve ones lineage. Ironically it is this very adherence to tradition, which sets the community apart from their fellow Belgians (although not absolutely). Many find the traditional practices difficult to understand, and see their presence as contrary to the needs of the country as a whole. Accordingly, the film is infused with social commentary on bigotry, discrimination against women (within the Turkish community), race, religious fundamentalism, and indeed homosexuality.
To make matters even more contentious for that Turkish family, one of their sons identifies as Gay and finds love in the arms of Kevin, a local boy who seems devoid of any religious or cultural identity. Indeed he exudes innocence and all encompassing acceptance of everything that his Turkish lover finds great difficulty in accepting. Yet there is something that pulls the two men together, making then determined to be honest with each other and themselves. Hard decisions are made, some with devastating consequences. His family is torn apart, and despite their rejection of their gay son, their own community shuns them. Thus revealing the inherent cruelty in that tradition.
The film could have been a great deal better, and one can not help but think that several aspects of the film's commentary was purposively underplayed. Perhaps as this was a Muslim boy, torn between his own faith and that of his communities, one can understand why the Director took a reserved approach to such a subject. Islamic fundamentalism and homosexuality within a single story line, could have the net effect of alienating an audience which it ultimately seeks to target. That aside, the story deserves honesty, even if that honesty has the effect of catapulting this story into the minds-eye of that community, and forcing it to comment on the issues addressed. Unfortunately, the film was less than honest in that regard, although at times there were moments of such. Almost as if the writer had rebelled, and attempted where allowed to address those issues many would rather avoid.
All in all an important film, with two honest leading men capable of telling a story, despite the inherent weaknesses within the films approach to that story.
I wanted to give this film five stars, so it was pushing an open door before I turned it on. It was mainly the subject matter which intrigued me. I like films exploring outsiders, intergenerational ethnic dramas and of course the ultimate outsider; the gay man from a conservative culture trying to battle his family, roots and a modern lifestyle. This film was some attempt to address these non main-stream issues. Unfortunately it didn't quite hit the mark. Some of the same issues were addressed in Hamam (Turkish/Italian) and particularly well in Sasha (Balkan/German). The film comes with an 18 rating which is nonsense. There is a little mild nudity perhaps and no sex scenes - nothing you wouldn't see on day time TV anyway. There is some graphic violence but that is nothing more than you would encounter on an evening soap. Maybe the film company wanted the 18 cert to boost sales. Either way it isn't warranted. Because the film is to be marketed in the Middle East it is assumed by the reviewer here that the love scenes were merely superficial (more implied than shown) in order not to offend potential viewers and their values. I would have thought that merely watching the film in the first place would have implied that they had no intention of being offended.
The storyline is good. Modern Belgian man from traditional Turkish stock is manipulated into marrying a cousin from some backwater in Turkey. They supposedly know nothing of his leanings although the mother suspects but would ignore it as long as he married and produced children. The father sees his oldest son as an extension of himself and the person to carry on the family values. The ironic thing is that both parents were born in Europe, not Turkey, but still closely identify with the Motherland as it were. They became more Turkish than the Turks - very similar to the Irish in the US embracing everything they believed to be `Irish' no matter how cliched.
The second son is the centre of the sub plot although you could be forgiven if you believed it was the other way round. Furkan represents all the bad sides of ghettoization and displacement. He was born in Belgium but sees himself as an outsider and even has no feelings for his Turkish identity opting to join an Islamic Fundamentalist mosque when relations with his father deteriorate too far. For those of us who know nothing of the sense of displacement North African and Middle Eastern emigrants the story in a story is done quite well - even if the acting is a bit strained. I'm assuming some of the radicals are inexperienced actors or not actors at all. Personally I think this subplot could have been the subject of a film in itself and may have taken too much from the developing relationship between Bram and Kevin. Kevin, the young Belgian man seems a bit out of his depth and his acting in the Hamam scene shows this. I couldn't see much of a spark between the two of them anyway.
As contrasted with Sasha, there is little culture in this film. It is just basic suburban living with little to lift the spirit - even suburbanites are not cultural vacuums. There is little music in it and a more judicious use of selected Turkish pieces I found would have heightened the sense of drama or tenderness. The music was saved for the violence. The director isn't Turkish of course so there may be some gaps there because of that. Also I couldn't see why the blandness of the Belgian city was replicated in the blandness of the Turkish town. We were told by Kevin how beautiful Turkey was but there is practically no scenery, an empty hotel of dubious quality and the people leave a lot to be desired yet any superficial visitor to the country would know that Turkey has some of the most dramatic coastlines in the world. None of it was used.
There is no humour in it either - I don't know if that is the Belgian side coming out! Even a few light hearted scenes or even an odd character would have lightened the load a bit, but nothing. I don't know how a relationship like this could survive without humour as they are doomed to failure by all around them but Kevin isn't presented as a developed character and we get the impression that there is no background there, no hobbies or interests. And no fun either.
It is a film worth watching because of its uniqueness. Films covering these topics are few and far between but I feel an opportunity was lost here. The Turks have a long history of film production so there is no excuse and it is a pity that a European director had to try fill in the gap. I would recommend watching it but don't get too excited nor pay too much.
I am surprised that this film has not received many more 4-star ratings, since it is not only a well made film with good acting and photography, but it addresses important issues for western society as well as the ethnic minorities so many of whom have made their lives in countries such as Germany. It seems that some people wanted a more hard-hitting film, but the film gets its message across well, forcing those watching to think about their attitudes without directly alienating them. I imagine that in Britain the subject matter would be the Pakistani community, rather than Turks, but will anyone here have the courage to make such a film?