In the pulsating realm of cinematic newly rising stars, Junes Zahdi emerges as a force to be reckoned with. The actor is set to illuminate the screen in “The Judgment,” a riveting LGBTQ+ psychological thriller helmed by Marwan Mokbel. The film received a grand unveiling on September 22 at Reeling 2023, Chicago’s iconic 41st LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, the buzz around the film since that night is palpable.
Zahdi portrays Mo, an Egyptian-American navigating the perilous terrains of his identity and secrecy in Egypt, alongside his partner, amidst a family crisis. The plot thickens as an enigmatic force employs witchcraft to imperil their journey. Zahdi’s evocative performance promises to etch “The Judgment” in the annals of memorable cinema.
Zahdi says of the film, “Essentially, it is a forbidden love story and a family tragedy about a young man who is shunned or even cursed by his own family just for being who he is. We also shot most of it in Lebanon during one of the country’s hardest times. All of what was going on at that time, only fueled us all creatively. It’s all only made the performances and the film better for it. All the walls came down. As men we are raised to suppress all trauma and any emotion, even as little boys. This film just allowed me to drop all of that bs and be 100% open. It’s a beautiful and powerful, universal story that I am very lucky to have been a part of. As artists we are very aware of those once in a career type of projects – and this is definitely it.”
Having showcased his prowess in esteemed titles like “Counterpart” and “Strange Angel,” and clinching nine “Best Lead Actor” accolades for ‘My Stretch of Texas Ground’ in 2019, Zahdi is no stranger to acclaim.
Born in Germany and hailing from Moroccan descent, Zahdi’s tryst with acting began as a refuge from the alienation of his surroundings. The craft became a sanctuary, enabling him to champion diverse narratives on screen. “In acting, I journey through myriad lives, acquainting with a spectrum of souls,” shared Zahdi.
“The Judgment” probes the nuanced societal stances on LGBTQ+ identities within Middle Eastern contexts, fostering introspection and conversation. It’s more than a film; it’s a poignant commentary on the clandestine battles individuals wage while guarding their LGBTQ+ truths, amplifying representation for Middle Eastern and LGBTQ+ narratives.
“As torchbearers of storytelling, we shape perceptions,” Zahdi emphasized. “The gravity of this role isn’t lost on me.”
For Zahdi, embodying Mo was an endeavor replete with challenges, demanding an unparalleled emotional excavation. “This film resonates as a magnum opus of sorts in my career—a poignant narrative I’m honored to be part of,” he said.
Director of The Judgement Marwan Mokbel talks about the film and Zahdi’s character, explaining the complexities of the role, “I always knew that playing Mo’s character will be very challenging because of all the contradictions it contains. Mo is a gay man who is very homophobic. He has an atheist mind, but his heart can’t rid itself from its extreme religious superstitions. He loves his boyfriend, but he doesn’t enjoy his intimacy because of what he is dealing with. He is angry with his mother and holds lots against her, but he is begging for her love. He throws rocks at the sky at anger at God, but in another scene asks his boyfriend’s mother to help him pray. Between these extremes lays the battleground for Mo’s conflict. It is a horror film, about Mo’s fear of God and spiritual conflict within him, and his journey is to try and find peace… but how? A side of his character must be given up because those extremes are failing to co-exist as he loses his mind, patience and strength”.
The process of casting Zahdi was however extremely simple Mokbel says “From the first time I saw Junes I knew he was Mo right away and the search for that character was so easily put to an end”.
Watch out for screenings : “The Judgment” promises to be a standout after premiering at Reeling 2023 in Chicago on September 22 it’s screenings are taking place at festivals around the country and abroad. Don’t miss it.