The relationship of Ferda and Kiymet is one of the few light moments in "A Jihad for Love," Parvez Sharma's documentary about homosexuality in the Muslim world. The two Turkish women laugh and touch in public, and in a poignant scene, Kiymet meets Ferda's 80-year-old mother. The introduction goes well, and the three women sit together and joke about life and love.
This kind of normality is absent in the lives of Sharma's other characters, most of whom have had to make wrenching choices between pursuing love and remaining within the embrace of traditional societies. Payam, a gay man who fled persecution in Iran, calls his mother from a phone booth in Turkey to update her on his hope of political asylum in Canada. He can hear her weeping -- which makes him break down.
"She said she was cutting onions but I could tell she was crying," he tells his friends, who try to comfort him.
Payam shows his face in the film, which was produced by Sandi Simcha DuBowski, the director of "Trembling Before G-d," a 2001 documentary that focused on homosexuality among Orthodox Jews. Amir, another young man who fled Iran, keeps his face hidden, but we do see his lacerated back, covered in red stripes after he was lashed for being gay.