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The Iranians
Ahsan & Qasim
Maha & Maryam
Ferda & Kiymet
Imam Muhsin Hendricks

Ahsan & Qasim: In India, his home country, director Parvez Sharma documents the lives of Ahsan-a Sunni Muslim and Qasim-A Shia Muslim. Both men, coming from poor backgrounds do not adopt western personae of ‘gay’ and instead rely on local constructs like ‘koti’ and 'zenana’-used by many men in the Indian sub-continent to self identify around their sexualities. The terms are often also used derogatorily to describe effeminate men but within their own circle of friends they become markers of identity. Ahsan laments the lack of a religious education as he walks the corridors of the Nadhwa Madrassa in Lucknow-an Islamic religious school that is amongst the most prestigious in the Indian sub-continent. Qasim who has faced questions around his sexuality and faith travels with the Director to meet Syed Kalbe Jawad-one of the most prominent clerics and authorities on Shia Islam outside of Iran. This is a meeting that will go to the very heart of the conflict in this film and leave the audience and indeed Qasim, with more questions than answers. Ahsan and Qasim both have found a sense of community within their circle of friends and it is their one moment of celebration and self expression-that finds itself joyously depicted in the film-using the vocabulary of Bollywood cinema-certainly the most familiar vocabulary to a billion Indians. In a remarkable way, the story of Ahsan and Qasim most directly challenges Western notions of sexuality and allows the audience to experience a way of being-and indeed a way of living sexuality, in a way that is different and enlightening.

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