El Houb – The Georgia Voice

Out On Film Festival In Review; Best of the Festival

Sept. 26, 9pm, Midtown Art Cinema

Writer and director Shariff Nasr’s dreamy style sweeps viewers into a flowing tale of memory and identity in El Houb. At the center of this family drama is Karim, a gay Moroccan man who locks himself in the literal closet of his parents’ home so that his religious family will listen to him as he comes out of the figurative closet. Those outside the closet denigrate Karim and, worse, pretend he isn’t there. Karim in the closet is stuck with himself, however, which means confronting past traumas and mistakes he’s made in his secretive life as a gay man.

The performances in El Houb are stunning in both their cool, Kubrickian quality and their emotional depth. Larhzaoui is a true anchor as Karim, giving the most tortured performance I’ve seen since Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. Nasr’s direction works in tandem with these unique performances, creating a harsh dreamscape that verges on becoming a nightmare at points. But however mean the film can become toward Karim, Nasr manages to remind the audience that “el houb” means “the love” in Arabic and that there is always a potential to learn and grow with a bit of listening and patience.