"Mixed Kebab" takes on a host of issues: Gay social and religious equality, the thorny question of immigration, and religious fundamentalism. Above all, it’s a film about divided identities--personal, familial, national, and ethnic.
Ibrahim (Cem Akkanat) muses, as the movie begins, that he is both Belgian and Turkish; both Ibrahim and Bram, depending on who’s addressing him and in what context. What is not ambiguous is his sexuality. "I’m gay," Ibrahim states, and that would be that except for his fear of coming out to his family. Because he is reluctant to do so, Ibrahim faces an arranged marriage with his first cousin, Elif (Gamze Tazim), who lives in Turkey but who can’t wait to get out and move to Belgium with her husband-to-be.
That doesn’t sit well with Elif’s boyfriend, Yusuf, who happens to work at the hotel where Ibrahim is staying with a male friend, Kevin (Simon van Buyten). When he spies the two men sleeping in the same bed, Yusuf snaps a few photos on his cell phone. Later, peeking at the two in the hotel’s steam room as they engage in some heavy petting, Yusuf takes a few more candid shots.
Yusuf’s attempt at breaking up the engagement doesn’t work, but Elif’s use of the photos as leverage to coerce Ibrahim to bankroll her love of shopping does; returning to Belgium with Kevin in tow, Ibrahim is determined to break it off. It’s only a question of when and how to announce this to his parents.
In the event, Ibrahim’s younger brother Furkan (Lukas de Wolf) is the bearer of the tidings. Furkan has been in something of a tailspin, first cutting school and swaggering around the neighborhood like a budding young tough, and then joining up with a radical mosque intent on bringing Sharia law to Belgium. With his father’s enraged disownment of Ibrahim, Furkan enjoys a brief moment of vindication--until the response from the Muslim community to news of his brother being gay makes a hard situation worse for his parents. At that point, Furkan starts to contemplate an honor killing.
The theme of being caught between cultures is hardly new, but "Mixed Kebab" underscores this by observing the ways in which people long for what they do not have; not just integrated identities, but other lives, better lives, something other than the life they live. Kevin and his mother, Marina (Karlijn Sileghem) hope one day to move on from the cafe they run to the South of France, where they envision owning a B and B; Elif can’t stand the provincial ways of her native country; even Furkan is forever looking for something different, whether it’s to defy his father, win his affection, or replace him entirely with fundamentalist imams. Only Ibrahim stands up to declare that he’s going to live his own life as he sees fit; the movie may work out a little too neatly in his favor, but then that’s what films are for.
August 23, 2013