“A GAY GIRL IN DAMASCUS: THE AMINA PROFILE” Intrigues With An Unexpected Story

Social Media has had a tremendous impact on our culture and the world-at-large. It’s changed the way people communicate and socialize on the Web. It’s even transformed how our relationships are structured. The Amina Profile by Quebec filmmaker Sophie Deraspe is a compelling documentary that explores these points through a very surprising real world chain of events.

The film starts with a chat session between two women, who meet online and have two continents between them. The digital love story of Canadian Sandra Bagaria and Syrian blogger Amina Arraf begins with sharing laughter, family photos, photos of one another, as the sensual build-up of their online romance begins to take shape. Using non-interview footage to support the narrative of Bagaria, Deraspe does an outstanding job at capturing a dreamy, surreal approach to the reenactments.

With the controversial events taking place in Syria during spring of 2011, Amina Arraf starts a blog entitled “A Gay Girl in Damascus.” Gay rights were non-existent and with a new lover, supporter and inspiration she wrote about the dangers of being a lesbian and the larger societal issues being faced by the populace living in fear of a dominating government regime. As the online relationship with Sandra grows more intense, the blog happens to get picked up by the Guardian. From there it gains a whirlwind of global attention, which seems like the legitimacy it so rightfully deserves. Arraf soon becomes the voice of suppressed LGBTQ people across the Middle East. Everyone is talking about it and begins to overshadow the actual civil war.

From the first scene of the documentary, which has two silhouetted women undressing, the sensuality of the relationship is at the forefront. We feel drawn into to this modern day love tale of two women finding each other, notwithstanding the distance, war and taboo attached to their sexual orientation.

Our intrigue is palpitating as Deraspe effectively pathway’s into a few months later when Amina’s blog entries suddenly come to a halt and the concern from Sandra and other readers spreads to international media outlets. Filmed with an interesting blend of styles, we see both artistic and deep images as well as interview footage of reporters and other concerned followers mixed with actual TV newscasts from the period.

If you haven’t already googled the shocking plot twist, this film has an absolutely mind blowing ending. Sandra Bagaria got catfished, but I’ll say no more to spoil the surprise.

This is an excellent documentary that provides no shortage of material for discussion and soul-searching. The biggest takeaway stems from the realization of just how easily we can be manipulated and distracted by media outlets that determine what is “news” vs. what brings “ratings” and what can be overlooked. It leaves you thinking about more serious issues such as the Syrians who are still living in the shadows.

The Amina Profile opens in theaters on July 24th in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. It’ll also be available to watch exclusively at SundanceNow Doc Club.