The Lawyer – a film about cam-sex, a refugee, and love in Lithuania
The Lawyer is a film that follows what happens when a lawyer from Lithuania meets a refugee from Syria. When the paths of these two queer men cross by chance, new opportunities are created for both of them.
Written and directed by Romas Zabarauskas, the film stars Eimutis Kvoščiauskas, Doğaç Yildiz, and Darya Ekamasova.
I caught up with Romas Zabarauskas for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
Why was this a story that you wanted to tell?
There are many different ways to answer this question.
One of them is that I think it’s important to refresh our sense of empathy and actively think about what can be done to help the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Hopefully, our tender romance can bring a new perspective and make people think about how they can contribute to improving the situation.
I’m an outsider to this topic, and so is the film’s lead character Marius, but it’s important for everyone to get involved. All while checking whatever privileges we may have, of course.
What was the experience of being queer in Lithuania that you wanted to present with this film?
Lithuania is one of the most homophobic countries in the EU, and yet we were also the first country to provide asylum for Chechen refugees fleeing an anti-gay purge. We have a vibrant queer culture, but we don’t have any legal recognition of same-sex couples, healthcare for trans people, or proper sex education.
In my film, however, the protagonist – Marius – lives a privileged life that isn’t so different from other cosmopolitan cities. That’s the reality of this particular character and I didn’t want to sugarcoat it.
One of the things we’ve seen is how when we interact with people who have arrived into our community from somewhere else (as refugees) that they unexpectedly change us and change our perception of our lives and the world. Did your research and work on this story change you in any way?
I think it’s dangerous to describe any people solely as victims, because it’s always only one part of someone’s identity. I prefer to say that someone is in a situation where help is needed, rather than to see that person as a victim. Especially because once we categorise an entire group of people as victims, it can have an unexpected dehumanising effect.
Someone’s difficult life circumstances aren’t here to inspire anyone. All of us, no matter our sexual orientation or gender identity, should think on how to make things right. And everyone should do their own research. If someone is willing to share their experiences, then of course that’s great, too, but no refugee should feel obliged to inspire anyone.
In other words, I think it’s a linguistic trap to think of ‘us’ as a community of non-refugees learning or getting inspiration from ‘them’ refugees. If I have to split the world into Us and Them, I’d say that ‘They’ are the status-quo guardians of inequality and sexist culture, while ‘We’ are the ones trying to fight it or at least reform it. People who happen to be refugees are most often in ‘our’ group as they’re already escaping war or another major injustice for the hope of a better, more fair future.
I think we should all learn from each other and try to build that future together.
How has distribution of the film been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic disruption?
We had planned to release our film in Lithuania theatrically this September, although – with the current situation – that’s now a bit up in the air. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what the reaction will be! Eimutis Kvosciauskas is a beloved theatre and television actor in Lithuania – audiences love him. As for me, I’m known as a troublemaker. We will certainly do all we can to share our vision and message widely in Lithuania, and I hope it works out.
Wider distribution of the film is being hugely impacted by the pandemic, however that doesn’t mean we won’t have a chance to be seen.
We were heartbroken by the fact our BFI Flare premiere got cancelled, losing the chance to share our world premiere with a live audience in London. However, it’s inspiring to see the world unite in order to fight this dangerous pandemic, and that’s what’s most important now.
We’ll find a way to share the film with audiences, despite the new challenges. Anyone interested in seeing the film can sign-up here and we’ll send you an update once the film becomes available where you are.
What do you hope that people feel when watching The Lawyer?
I hope they will be surprised. I hope that whatever intuition they have about the film, the actual experience of watching it will be different.