Egyptian filmmaker Sam Abbas made a splash when he released his queer-themed movie “The Wedding” in secret locations across the Middle East via his Egypt-based ArabQ shingle. The director is now starting a new company in Paris.
Abbas, who is Egypt-born and until recently lived in New York, drew some media attention in 2018 with “The Wedding,” which he wrote, directed and starred in as a young closeted Muslim man from Brooklyn who, while planning to marry his American girlfriend — played by Canada’s Nikohl Boosheri — is having affairs with other men.
“The Wedding” played in secret speakeasy-type venues by invitation only in Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt via ArabQ, Abbas claimed, which helped prompt some publicity when the film briefly screened in New York to unenthusiastic reviews. Variety’s Jay Weissberg called “The Wedding” “a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore.”
Still, the ArabQ initiative was bold since LGBTQ people face systematic discrimination across the Middle East, where in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, being gay or bisexual is punishable by death.
Egypt is known to be increasingly virulently homophobic. A Human Rights Watch report published on Monday noted that “Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region.”
Abbas is now shuttering ArabQ having been advised to “never to set foot again” in certain parts of the Middle East “for my safety,” he noted in a statement, adding that he will now be less focused on story-driven films and “more on pure cinema.”
The Egyptian-American multi-hyphenate’s new Paris-based shingle is called Maxxie, Suzzee & Cinema, and has funding “from a group of private investors eager to create arthouse projects,” the statement said.
Projects in the new Sam Abbas company’s pipeline comprise:
High-profile documentary “Erēmīta (Anthologies),” shot during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and featuring contributions from the following DPs: Alexis Zabé (“The Florida Project”), Chayse Irvin (“BlacKkKlansman”), Ashley Connor (”Madeline’s Madeline”), Soledad Rodríguez (“The Good Intentions”), Stefano Falivene (“Siberia”), Antoine Héberlé (“A Son”), Benoît Dervaux (“The Unknown Girl”) and Abbas.
Each cinematographer oversaw their project, having final cut for their individual piece. Besides contributing a segment, Abbas curated the entire project.
“Marie,” a short directed by Abbas about a woman giving birth at home surrounded and aided by her team.
“Between Memories,” an upcoming documentary directed by Abbas focused on Alzheimer’s disease.