The term “MENASA” (Middle East, North African, and South Asian) encompasses a wide diversity of cultures, loosely linked by the idea that the people of these regions are perceived as practicing or having a significant proximity to the practice of Islam. Yet the films exploring this identity that reach audiences in the West are too often limited in depth and range, relying on centuries-old narratives that exoticize, or are solely interested, in Muslim and Arab people as the victims or perpetrators of violence.
The Infinite Beauty series, curated by our Director of Grants Farihah Zaman, first launched in October 2022 at the Museum of the Moving Image as a way of bringing more nuanced depictions of MENASA life into the light. From the beginning, it featured films that depict queer MENASA people, from BGDM member Rita Baghdadi’s Sirens, to Breaking Fast by Mike Mossalam, a rom-com set during one fateful Ramadan in Los Angeles.
This pride month, the Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM) is proud to present an all-queer extravaganza. Co-presented with Slamdance through its digital streaming Slamdance Channel and the Museum of the Moving Image, five shorts will be available for viewing in-person in New York and worldwide online.
These films run a range of approaches - from animated reflections of the past, to the dream of imagined futures, a close reading of archival subtext to find ourselves in the historical record, to recreations of intimate family moments to understand the present - reflecting the beautiful kaleidoscope of queer MENASA and asserting our existence, connection, and joy.
From June 22nd to July 7th, honor the beauty, expansiveness and complexities of queer MENASA communities with us.
Pride Month Program
The Adam Basma Project
Dir. Leila Basma. Lebanon + Czechoslovakia. 2020, 15mins.
As a child Leila Basma had only a few glimpses into the life of her uncle Adam who left Lebanon when he was just a teenager to become a belly dancer, and eventually settled in Los Angeles with his husband and a successful career as an artist. Basma begins to piece together an understanding of her uncle through the breadcrumbs left behind, simultaneously creating a portrait of familial love that persists across space and time.
Noor & Layla
Dir. Fawzia Mirza. Canada. 2021, 13mins.
After the heady thrill of fateful encounters and undeniable chemistry, Noor and Layla are trying to determine what their path forward will be - and if they will take that path together. The two women reflect on five life-changing moments in their relationship, which correspond to the five times of day that Muslims are called to prayer, providing thoughtful structure to this charming and relatable look at the hard work of falling in love.
Dir. Hena Ashraf. India + UK. 2021, 18mins.
After her father suddenly dies while visiting his motherland of India, Hena Ashraf reflects on a relationship strained by cultural and generational differences. This raw and inventive personal documentary combines a robust family archive with recreations, leaning on the act of creation to come to terms with a profound, if complex, loss.
Scenes I Imagine
Dir. Metin Akdemir. Turkey. 2020, 40mins.
In lieu of explicit representations, queer people around the globe have often learned to find themselves between the lines in cinema and literature, in romantic gestures and words unspoken yet nevertheless understood by those who need to hear them most. Scenes I Imagine explores this phenomenon in the so called “women films,” of 1980s and early 90s Turkish cinema, shedding a light on the subversive sexual and emotional undercurrents simmering just below the safe guise of female friendship.
The Streets are Ours: Two Lives Across Karachi
Dir. Michelle Fiordaliso. Pakistan. 2017, 16mins.
A friendship with Sabeen Mahmud, the inspiring founder of Karachi performance space T2F, empowered Pakistani-American artist Fawzia Mirza to perform her one-woman show across Pakistan, in spite of themes that sometimes pushed the envelope. The moving friendship between these two women nourished both in the face of discrimination and judgement; Mirza explores the lasting impact that someone like Mahmud has in their community even after devastating losses.
How to Watch
Online: sign up for the Slamdance Channel, use promo code “infinitebeauty” for $3 off of a $7.99 subscription. Then, head to the BGDM Infinite Beauty Shorts Showcase playlist. Streaming is available from June 22nd to July 7th on web, mobile, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
In-person: The Museum of the Moving Image will be hosting the screenings on Saturday, June 24 at 2:30pm ET. Purchase tickets directly from MoMI.