BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
In the new Israeli film Out in the Dark, co-star Michael Aloni describes the two lead characters as "a modern Romeo & Juliet."
Today, of course, that means they're gay. And to make matters worse for their religious, ultra-conservative families, one lover is an Israeli Jew, the other Palestinian.
"It is a very emotional movie," says Aloni, 28, a well-known Israeli actor in Tel Aviv. "It shows the political issues and brings out the true love story between the couple."
Aloni, who plays Jewish attorney Roy Schaffer, and Nicholas Jacob, who co-stars as Palestinian student Nimr Mashrawi, are in South Florida this weekend for Out in the Dark's debut at Coral Gables Art Cinema. (The movie played one night last April at the 2013 Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.)
"It’s one of the most realistic and emotionally intimate gay male love stories I’ve seen recently," says filmmaker Robert Rosenberg, director of Coral Gables Art Cinema and founder of Miami's gay film festival. "It's anchored in a social and political reality that’s much broader than the simple boy-meets-boy love story."
The lovers' lives unravel because of intense parental pressure and the threat of public violence because of their different religious backgrounds.
"They can't trust their families, they can't trust their own governments," Rosenberg says. "They are the anti-heroes against the world."
Directed, co-written and produced by Michael Mayer, a gay Israeli, "the film resonates on the issues of immigration, borders and asylum," Rosenberg says.
"They are hot-button issues in the United States and key issue for a Miami audience," he says.
Both Jacob and Aloni, who are straight, say they could relate to the societal pressures on their characters.
"I was born to an Arab father and Italian mother," says Jacob, 24, a first-time actor from Haifa, Israel, who at age 5 moved with his parents to Nashville.
"I returned to Israel at age 9; enrolled in a Christian-Arab school; finished Jewish high school," Jacob says. "It kind of put me in a place as an outsider."
His character also "lives between two different worlds," he says.
Aloni, a veteran film, theater and television actor who also hosts Israel's version of The Voice, says Jacob was the perfect choice to co-star.
"He was right for the part. If you saw the film, you’d never know it was his first role," Aloni says. "We wanted it to be as authentic, as true as possible for the relationship between the two of them. I could never ask for a better partner than Nicholas."
IF YOU GO
Out in the Dark opens Friday at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave. Stars Michael Aloni and Nicholas Jacob will attend 7 and 10 p.m. screenings on Saturday, and a 9 p.m. reception at the cinema's outdoor plaza. $20 for cinema members; $25 nonmembers. Tickets include film and reception.