For our 47th screening, Mahmoud Hassino brings us Al-Massir/Destiny, an Egyptian-French historical drama set in Andalusia, Spain in the 12th century.  

Al-Massir/Destiny was written and directed by Youssef Chahine who was awarded the 50th annual lifetime achievement award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of Averroes/Ibn Rushd, the 12th century Andalusian philosopher, who has a special connection to the Andalusian Caliph Al-Mansour and his two sons. Averroes believes that God wants people to interpret and debate the Koran. This leads to social and political unrest that results in Averroes’s persecution.

Mahmoud Hassino describes his choice as follows:

I see the film as an allegory of the distinct political situations in different Arab countries. It reveals how Arab dictators sponsor fundamentalists who claim to be helping to bring more stability. While it directly references the suffering of Egyptians under dictatorship and fundamentalism, it can also be understood as an allegory of what happened in Syria and what is now happening in other Arab countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

As a gay person, I have always admired Chahine’s artistic coming-out in his 1982 film An Egyptian Story. The film stars Nour Al-Sherif as the gay protagonist. Al-Sherif had also played a tormented gay character in the 1977 film Cat on Fire, alongside Poussi, his wife in life as well as in the film. The actor would later suffer from a media campaign against him because of his sexual orientation.

Furthermore, the film is inspirational because it shows that one can best resist persecution through the use of one’s talents. In 1994, Chahine released his film Al-Mohager/The Emigrant, which was based on the biblical story of Joseph. The film suffered long bans because of two law suits filed against it by Muslim and Christian fundamentalists. I find Al-Massir to be Chahine’s response to fundamentalism.

Mahmoud Hassino is a Syrian journalist and blogger. Before the war in Syria, he wrote about arts and culture for a weekly magazine. His attention shifted toward documenting human rights violations and war reporting during the Syrian uprising and the consequent civil war. He started the first Syrian LGBTI magazine Mawaleh in 2012 to raise awareness about Syrian LGBTI issues and organised the first Mr Gay Syria competition in Istanbul on 14 Feb. 2016. He is also a character in the film Mr Gay Syria by Turkish director Ayse Toprak.

Mahmoud received his asylum status in Germany in September 2014 and has been working at the Queer Refugees Project of the Schwulenberatung Berlin since August 2015.

We are very grateful to Zawya Distribution, and Nawara Shoukry in particular, for their support of this screening.