Last year, the internationally-acclaimed feature documentary Call Me Kuchu (read Nijla’s review HERE) documented the what life is like for homosexuals in Uganda. This year, Roger Ross Williams tackles a similar topic in his new documentary God Loves Uganda.
And also this year, directors Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann head just northwest of Uganda with Born This Way, a feature documentary on the lives of gays and lesbians in Cameroon, and seeks to make it clear that the worldwide struggle for tolerance and equality still has a long way to go.
Here’s a synopsis:
Like everywhere else in the world, gays and lesbians in Cameroon seek refuge in the city. The two young gay men in this film are crazy about Rihanna and Lady Gaga, who has been a gay icon since her hit song ‘Born this way’. But the tolerance Lady Gaga sings about is just a dream for them. In their country, homosexual relations are subject to punishment of up to five years in prison, and it is almost impossible to come out to your own family. This film describes both the impossible and the possible. The filmmakers’ unobtrusive proximity to their protagonists has yielded conversations in which their interlocutors discuss their longing for a love life they are forbidden to have. Alice Nkom is a lawyer and human rights activist fighting to protect the rights of gays and lesbians. Thanks to her, there is quiet hope and small niches can be discerned where there is something akin to a life not based upon self-denial.
As someone who lived in Cameroon for 2 years, when I was a kid, I can’t say that homosexuality was ever talked about – at least not publicly (at the time anyway – this was in the early 1980s); but I think we all knew of gay and lesbian men and women in the country. I just don’t recall if it was something that was publicly discussed, or considered taboo.
I remember hearing stories of this guy, or that girl, but it wasn’t clear to me as a kid, based on how all I heard and read, if it was something I was supposed to be repelled by or embrace. I was only there for 2 years, and it was a long time ago, so it could be that, during that period, I was more consumed with just growing up – regular kid’s stuff (I was a bit of an outsider); so I wasn’t paying full attention to the lives of others or what was being said about them.
But a long time has passed since then, and it appears not much has changed… or it could be that gay and lesbian men and women are more open about their sexuality now, compared to the early 80s, and so the country can’t just “pretend” homosexuality doesn’t exist anymore.
The film is currently traveling the film festival circuit, and will next screen at Human Rights Watch Film Festival in NYC, next month.
A trailer for the film has surfaced and is embedded below: