VIFF Review: A Gay Girl in the Damascus – The Amina Profile

The Amina Profile follows the real-life scandal around the impersonation of a lesbian woman in Syria by a White American man.Amina Project Film Review VIFF

 

A Gay Girl in Damascus was a popular blog run by Amina Arraf, who wrote about her experiences as a gay woman living in Damascus, Syria. She developed a serious online relationship with a Montreal woman named Sandra, and when Amina was reportedly abducted during the Syrian uprising of 2011, which was widely reported by The Guardian and other major news corporations, Sandra experienced real distress – but there was more pain to come. Amina wasn’t really a Syrian gay girl. Amina was the creation of Tom MacMaster, an American man who created the blog and online identity.

The film takes us on a journey through the scandal, and weaves together relevant social issues like the dangers of online identities, groupthink, and the ever-present White saviour complex, into one seamless narrative.

The butterfly effect MacMaster created shook the Muslim LGBTQ community who had so fiercely supported Amina. Ahmed Danny Ramadan, an avid LGBTQ activist in the film, mentioned the “holier than thou” attitude taken by the imposter. Ramadan brought up an obvious point, which is that people in Syria can speak for themselves. There are real LGBTQ people in Syria who are more than capable of speaking out about their stories and struggles, and more accurately represent the issue at large. MacMaster inserted himself into an issue he had no involvement in, and in the aftermath of the scandal, the real LGBTQ community was silenced, as the spotlight was firmly placed on the fake Amina. The Amina Profile succeeds in shifting the focus away from the scandal, and towards the people whose lives were affected by it.

The Amina scandal also created a media frenzy for the news corporations that confirmed Amina’s existence and disappearance without any fact checking. The Guardian was the first big name news source that published a story on Amina, passively and indirectly confirming her existence and disappearance, something other media corporations followed.

Some critics claim that the film gives MacMaster too much recognition instead of focussing on the real people affected by the scandal – not least of which are Sandra, and the LGBTQ activists who so fiercely supported Amina. In her defence, director Sophie Deraspe maintains that his inclusion in the film was not wanted, but necessary to provide closure for Sandra, as well as the audience.

Watch the Trailer for A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile