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A SINNER IN MECCA (#insideout25 Review)


Directed by Parvez Sharma

A SINNER IN MECCA opens with an online conversation between two gay men unlike any conversation I have with other men online. Ordinarily, if someone sends me a message that starts with the words, “I’m so fucking …” the next word is usually “horny.” Here, the next word is “afraid.” One of the men lives in Saudi Arabia and has just witnessed the public beheading of a suspected gay man. Instead of orchestrating anonymous sex, he is only interested in getting out of Saudi Arabia.


From Parvez Sharma, the director of A JIHAD FOR LOVE, comes A SINNER IN MECCA, in which Sharma goes home to Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca, a pilgrimage expected of all true Muslims. Sharma wants very much to be a good Muslim, which is not always easy for him to resolve given he lives his life in the United States as an openly gay man. In fact, upon his return to his home after 26 years away, he has just married his partner. He is putting his life at risk just by being in Saudi Arabia but that is how much he cares about and respects his religious beliefs.


Or is that how much he wants to push the envelope for the purpose of this film? Maybe Sharma’s intentions are completely pure but A SINNER IN MECCA is far too personal for me to absorb blindly without questioning its sincerity. Sharma is the sinner in the title after all and though he has given me no reason to mistrust him, I struggled while watching to understand why any of his journey needed to be documented to begin with. Sharma claims he needs to test his faith by taking this journey but the personal elements confuse the grander purpose and end up just testing my patience.

2.5 sheep

A SINNER IN MECCA screens at the 25th edition of Inside Out, Toronto’s LGBT Film Festival, on Saturday, May 30, at 2:45 PM, at TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information and for tickets, please visit

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