La La Land

I leave La La Land with a heavy heart. Too often many of us on the East Coast and elsewhere assume a kind of intellectual vacuum in this town. While West Hollywood many times does appear to be out of touch with reality and conversations about Islam or global politics at the Abbey (for example) are not destined to go very far- I have been amazed with the quality of discussions I have had with the media here and indeed with audiences. The film will be held over both here and in Palm Springs for another week (I will update that information as soon as I have showtimes).

A highlight of my trip was being asked to sit for Don Bachardy. Don is Christopher Isherwoods lifelong partner and now a 74 year old widower. I spent the day sitting still for this remarkable man who has lived history-and whose hands have worked the faces of remarkable people from Anais Nin to Aldoux Huxley and so many more. I am told it is an honour to be asked and I feel humbled. I spent much of the time in his Santa Monica studio observing his hands. They show signs of age but move across canvas with remarkable alacrity and an almost spirtual certitude. Don does not talk much. He is shy and very childlike in some ways. The energy he exudes is of one who has lived a remarkable and full life, who has met most of the important people in the last century of Western history and who still retains an amazing curiosity for his subjects. I am told three portraits with him is enough for him to get a sense of your being.
He told me I was very 'still'. I know I was that day, mostly out of awe and in as much as I was in a meditative and observational state. Stillness however is not a quality that I think I usually posess. But on Monday I was watching Don Bachardy watching me.
I read Isherwood when I was 12, so this portrait session was like coming full circle with this phase of my life.
I remain, deeply fascinated by 'The Hands of Don Bachardy'.
I hope, one day, to ask him for permission to use one of those portraits on this blog.

Finally-John who saw the film here sends this touching email:
dear Parvez,
my friend and i saw "Jihad" on saturday night and enjoyed both the film and the question and answer period after.
i must apologize, however, for using the term " Islamists" in place of Moslems when i was speaking with you. please attribute that to being a bit tired...but not because of the film.
as i had said during our exchange this film really pointed up, for me, the great faith and devotion of the subjects in the film to Islam. i felt that this demonstration of their faith was the highlight of the film for me and spurs my hope that more non- Moslems would see it.
it is my great pleasure, and good fortune, to have as my close friend a very devout Moslem who demonstrates to me daily what a loving and inclusive religion Islam is.
we had both come to "Jihad" with sincere hope that some answer to the question of homosexual love's place in Islam would jump out at us. though we didn't experience any epiphany our love as friends will continue to grow as will our respect for one another's beliefs and "jihads".
thank you, Parvez, for this fine film, and your commitment to your subjects struggles.
be well,
p.s. much better than any sequel to " another gay movie"! :)

You're documentary was very well done.
I hope the film, "Jihad for Love", has the power to bring some beneficial changes to the injustices that exist in many parts of the world. Not being a religious person myself, it's difficult to understand gays that remain faithful to a religion that does not tolerate their uniqueness. My partner is a former Mormon from Salt Lake City where his family still live. We have similar problems in our own country, though maybe not as extreme. I do work with Muslims in my office from Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Iran. They have been accepting of my being gay, so there is hope.
Thanks for making this colorful, interesting film. I wish more people will see it.

Here are some links to features:

The Long Beach Press Telegram has a nice feature with interviews

Also this excellent interview with Yatrika Shah-Rais. Click on the Link and then click on the Global Village Icon from August 6, 2008 to play

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