In the film, Mr. Sharma, 41, struggles visibly with his fear, even as he prays. He also explores the enduring grief he felt after being rebuked by his late mother, a poet, for not finding a “nice girl” to marry.
The documentary, largely recorded on an iPhone strapped to Mr. Sharma’s neck with rubber bands, shows the pilgrimage in unflinching detail. The result is a religious reality film, but also a piercing indictment of Saudi Arabia, which influences, Mr. Sharma said, millions of pilgrims annually.
His new documentary, “A Sinner in Mecca,” about his 2011 hajj, or journey to Islam’s most sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, put him at even greater risk. Saudi religious police allow selfies or short videos, Mr. Sharma said, but they forbid pilgrims from taking extensive footage of the hajj, which attracts up to three million faithful a year. While Mr. Sharma said there were government-sanctioned videos of the ritual, his documentary shows images of the annual pilgrimage that Saudi officials do not want others to see.
Mr. Sharma’s discretion is no doubt borne of his experience growing up gay in a conservative city in India, but it has deepened since the release of his 2007 documentary, “A Jihad for Love,” which depicted the struggle of gay Muslims around the world to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. (Homosexuality is generally condemned in modern Islamic societies, said Everett Rowson, an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.) After “Jihad,” Mr. Sharma was labeled an infidel, and in the intervening years, he has gotten more death threats than he cares to recall.
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