Openly-gay, Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma risked his life to film a 80-minute documentary "A Sinner in Mecca" in Hejaz, Saudi Arabia.
Sharma filmed the mass pilgrimage by Muslims, also called the "Hajj," to Mecca with two smuggled cameras and an iPhone.
A trailer for the movie (video below) has been posted on the film's YouTube page, which states:
For a gay filmmaker, filming in Saudi Arabia presents two serious challenges: filming is forbidden in the country and homosexuality is punishable by death.
In part of the trailer, Sharma notes that he has publicly been declared an "infidel" by Islamic authorities. He says, "Let's go, hope we come out alive."
The film also goes to the town of Madinah (where Islam's Prophet Muhammad is buried), the brash commercialization of the five-day Hajj experience, the harsh treatment of Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslims and the filthy conditions created by the the mass overcrowding for the event, which Muslims are expected to attend at least once in their lives.
Sharma, who is originally from India, recently told the Indian website Scroll.in:
...As a filmmaker and an activist intent on reforming Islam, it was important for me to challenge Saudi authority ‒ this is the most corrupt and secretive regime in Islam and they have an insidious and longstanding project to export their version of an 18th century Islam called Wahabi Islam, which is an Islam of fear. It is an Islam that reserves the death penalty for openly gay Muslims like me.
...[T]he roots of the dangerous ideology which lies at the heart of today’s ISIS and even al Qaeda comes from Wahabi Islam. And Wahabi Islam is what is taught in Saudi Arabia’s schools and exported all around the Muslim world including India, where you already see a Saudi style of conservatism affecting Muslim communities.
A Sinner in Mecca is thus a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia and unlike any film that has ever been made about the Hajj. And in order to do it, I had no choice but to put my life at considerable risk.
...The idea of sin is central to the Hajj ‒ in Islam, everyone who enters Makkah (Mecca) to complete their Haj is a sinner. If they complete their Hajj in the prescribed way and with the right niyat or intention they are absolved of all sin.