A Sinner in Mecca review

Hot Docs 2015 Review: A Sinner in Mecca



Filmmaker Parvez Sharma (director of the acclaimed documentary A Jihad for Love) has struggled most of his life with the paradox of being a devout gay Muslim man. After getting married to his longtime boyfriend once the Marriage Equality Act is passed in New York, Sharma decides to embark on his Islamic pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca, knowing full well how unwelcome he is by his own faith.

A Sinner in Mecca, Sharma’s second feature, is very much a diaristic approach to the material he tackled in his first film. He shoots himself and his surroundings largely from his iPhone, due to the fact that filming is generally forbidden in much of Mecca. This gives the film a taboo urgency – as Sharma states, he is as much in the closet as a filmmaker in Saudi Arabia as he is a gay man.

As you can imagine, the intensity of the pilgrimage is captured pretty viscerally and we see how rough of an affair it is. Pilgrims are pushed and jostled around due to the huge number of participants, garbage is strewn everywhere due to lack of disposal options, and people go without water for large stretches. Alternatively, some images are beautifully surreal, as in the shots of the pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in unison.

Is A Sinner in Mecca essential festival viewing?

I wouldn’t say it’s essential festival viewing, but it’s still an interesting exploration of faith, particularly for fans of Sharma’s earlier film.

A Sinner in Mecca screening times

A Sinner in Mecca trailer

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Published by

Mark Hanson

Somewhere in between seeing a scrappy young hockey team defeat a group of Icelandic behemoths in D2: The Mighty Ducks and jumping when Samuel L. Jackson’s severed arm plays peek-a-boo with Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, my love for movies really started to take control of me. Ever since, I’ve devoured anything film wise that I can get my hands on in a quest to conquer the world of cinema (but not in a violent way or anything). I also semi-occasionally keep up a film blog called Ma Ha’s Magic Film Corner and work behind the counter at the glorious Bay Street Video. Follow me on Twitter @mahahafilm

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