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Sonia Benarab



Al Hayat is a short film that centers around the lead character Zain, a young Middle Eastern crossdresser who finds the strength to be a female bellydancer with the support of his sister and his spiritual connection to the narrative analogy of the Tree of Life.


If you'd also like to support LGBTQ communities in Middle Eastern and Arabic countries, you can still help produce this film.

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Have you known, met or spoken to an LGBTQ member from the Middle East? Have you seen films, documentaries or articles that portrays them in a positive way or in any way at all? That’s what we thought...

Zain is a beautiful human being who lives with a very intellectual tribe in the middle of the Bahrain desert. Near their home stands the Tree of Life where the tribe refer to it as 'Shajarat Al Hayat'. The Tree of Life is one of the unknown mysteries of the world-how does it keep flourishing for centuries with little to no water in its vicinity... Zain is very close to his sister Nur who is also his spiritual leader, together they pray to God to find peace and love, which gives Zain the courage and freedom to be himself. Al Hayat climaxes with a breathtaking dance that reveals Zain clothing.


Not only are we telling an exceptional story, but we are showing complicated emotions. We are also looking through the lenses of a Tunisian Female Director and Director of Photography Aaron Reid, who has worked on numerous projects such as ASAP Rocky's "Purple Kisses" music video, Pull & Bear's commercial and "Brotherhood" feature film -bringing expertise and veracity to the work.

“I feel like I am a mixture of many things; traditions, cultures, rules and perspectives which I really want to express in this film. I am using ancient traditional music with modern electronic beats, mixing Arabic colors with Western looks and using nature to translate humankind’s behavior.” -Sonia Benarab


This film is a tribute to the LGBTQ communities in the Middle Eastern and Arabic countries. It is also for individuals who still do not accept themselves as they are, who still don’t feel like they are enough just the way they are. We aim to take this film to Cannes and other prestigious Film Festivals to make sure it gets the recognition it will deserve to get.


What We Need

We want this film to be authentic, beautiful and poetic. We chose to shoot with a 35mm film camera for the outstanding colours that it offers. Some of the cuts will require Visual Effects. We also chose to shoot in Tunisia for practical and safety reasons. The idea is to hire the entire cast there and spend as much money as possible locally. In order to make the film to a quality this community deserves, all together we will have to raise £35,000-£45,000.


Cast & Crew (Animals): £10,000

Equipment (Film camera): £5,000

Travels & Logistic: £5,000

Art Design: £5,000

Costume Design: £3,000

Editing & VFX: £5,000

Score/Music: £2,000


It is important to remember that by supporting this film you are telling LGBTQ members from any origins and cultures you care about them and that their freedom is important to you. We also have an amazing range of merchandise to thank you for supporting our cause such as: posters, t-shirts, framed still pictures, a dinner in London with the creative crew, a film editing master class (bear in mind, we’re talking film stock footage) a flight to Tunisia to spend the day on set, and more!

If we are unable to reach our goal, your money will not go towards a vacation at PoneyLand. Instead, we will simply save the money and keep on using every single opportunity available to raise the rest of the necessary funds.


The Impact

Kingdom of Bahrain law:

Although homosexuality has been legal since 1976 - five years after their independence from British colony - LGBTQ people in Bahrain are still facing discrimination. LGBTQ people are still being tortured, imprisoned and persecuted by the police and the government.


Tunisian law:

Government repression of the LGBTQ community is generally justified under Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code, which punishes sexual acts between two consenting adults of the same sex by up three years of imprisonment. The French version of the Criminal code criminalizes “sodomy”, which is unconstitutional for the contradictions it carries with the new constitution’s provisions that stipulates:

  • Conducting anal examinations as “proof” of homosexual behavior constitutes cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and potentially torture, a violation of the protection of human dignity and the prohibition of torture as enshrined by Article 23 of the Constitution.


We are not being controversial because it’s “cool”. This project has been put to start because it is essential. We truly believe that art is a powerful way to cultural changes.


Risks & Challenges

Shooting in Tunisia where the culture, the traditions and the habits are so different from our Western cultures will definitely be a challenge. The shoot will take place in the desert where the sand and heat can be very tricky. Not to forget the language barrier that the crew will probably be facing with the local team and cast. It is also a subject that many people in Tunisia do not understand and opposition due to prejudices may arise. So yes, building this very sensitive but beautiful project will be punctuated by risks and challenges. But in our team, we love a challenge because it teaches us lessons, it allows us to not take things for granted. Challenges make us even more eager to achieve our goal and share our vision. And most importantly, we will all learn so much from each other.


Other Ways You Can Help

Follow us on instagram @alhayatshortfilm to stay up to date and get into the vision and the vibes of the film. Please do share the campaign on all your social media, we appreciate that it takes time but you know what they say, 'time is money', so here is your contribution ;)



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