Thursday, March 27, 2014

BFI Flare: Born This Way (2014)

BFI Flare

At a time when Western liberal countries are patting themselves on the back about the progressive march towards tolerance for homosexuality and equal marriage, it is easy to forget just how hard it is in other parts of the world to be ‘out’ about your sexuality.  And there is nowhere where it is harder to be gay right now than Cameroon.

Born This Way

Born This Way follows a handful of insanely brave young Cameroonians as they live their lives out of the closet in the most dangerous place in the world for LGBT citizens. Stories about beatings and mass gang rape are common; some of which are so violent that they have lead to permanent paralysis...

In a continent that is so ravaged by HIV and AIDS, it is abhorrent that those people that are fighting to promote safe sex amongst high-risk people are being attacked so violently.  One scene in particular highlights the nature of the opposition: Alice Nkom, an attorney appears on a television news show to rationally explain the argument against homophobia and bigotry only to be told that to be gay is a “murderous identity that is above Jesus Christ the son of God…”  

Born This Way

According to section 347a of the penal code in Cameroon, homosexuality is illegal punishable by up to 5 years in prison and 200,000 Francs.  Yet campaigners art trying to raise this up to 15 years… 

The bigotry on display is unbelievable, yet the characters that are followed are hopeful and inspired by their own solidarity (with a little additional inspiration from Lady Gaga).  One character proclaims that it is important for Cameroonians to stick together as the west has its own problems, such as climate change and a financial crisis, before listing the problems that face Cameroon: eating, sleeping, shelter and making love…

The strength of will that the young protagonists display, even with the very real threat of imprisonment if the images of the film became available within their own borders, make this an incredibly touching documentary.  One of the main characters is not even out to his beloved mother, yet is willing to go on-the-record in order to raise awareness about the state of his nation.

From what is being said in recent years, it may appear that the situation is slightly improving in Cameroon, but if this film made that transition in any way quicker than it deserves to have the widest audience possible…

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