In the past few years, not only has Caribbean filmmaking rapidly grown in terms of the quantity and quality of films, but also in the genres and themes tackled by stories in the films. While we still don’t have an established “Horror” genre, we do have filmmakers making films which include our folkloric traditions, and we have seen films tackle one of the more difficult aspects of life Caribbean society, sexual orientation identification. While there have been a few narrative feature and short films telling stories which include LGBT themes, most of the films we’ve seen on this subject recently, have been documentaries. So far, the documentaries are being made by filmmakers who deeply empathize with gay, lesbian, and transgender Caribbean nationals and use their films as platforms/ways to spread the message against homophobia. We’ll take a look at both the narrative and documentary films we’ve come across, as we continue on our journey of understanding and sharing Caribbean films.
Determined to reconcile with the mother who abandoned her when she was just a toddler, a Bahamian adolescent boards a local mail boat and sets sail for Nassau in director Maria Govan’s intimate family drama. Rain has lived a sheltered life on Ragged Island, but now the death of her grandmother has forced her to get out and explore the world on her own. Upon arriving in Nassau the young girl is overwhelmed by the sights of the big city, and soon finds her idealistic illusions shattered when she witnesses firsthand just how deviant and destructive her mother’s lifestyle has truly become. Stranded in a an unfamiliar environment that fills her with dread and confronted by a mother she has never known, Rain searches deep within herself to summon the strength needed to find her own place in the world.
In the film one of the supporting characters is a lesbian, and while the story is not focused on her sexuality, it does represent and reveal a beautiful relationship between her and her partner.
Awards: Audience Award – Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, France, Paris Lesbian Feminist Film Festival, and Bahamas International Film Festival; Best New Director/First Film and Best Film – Pan African Film Festival; Graine Cinephage Award – Creteil Women’s International Film Festival; Best Teen Movie – Women’s International Film Festival, Korea; New Visions Competition (Special Mention) – Palm Springs International Film Festival; Audience Award Runner Up – Women’s Film Festival Brattleboro, and Vermont and Bermuda International Film Festival.
Set against the backdrop of a nation grappling with violent homophobic crime and offering a scathing examination of the underlying hatred for gays rampant in Caribbean societies, Bahamian Kareem Mortimer’s debut narrative feature tells the stories of three very different individuals: Lena, the conservative, deeply religious wife of a secretly gay firebrand pastor; Romeo, a handsome young black man hiding his sexuality from his close-knit and loving family; and Jonny, the conflicted and creatively-blocked white artist in search of himself. All three head for the spectacularly beautiful and tranquil island of Eleuthera, each with a different reason for escaping current circumstances. Soon, their disparate worlds collide in unexpected and affecting ways. This uncommon portrayal of love, loneliness, tolerance, secrets and self-acceptance takes viewers on a poignant multifaceted journey that is enlightening, courageous, and disquieting all at the same time, and which shocks to the very core with its startling conclusion.
The film opened the 2009 Bahamas International Festival and made its UK debut closing the 2010 BFI London and Lesbian Gay festival. It went on to win the Audience Award in Turin and was named by The Independent as one of the ten films to watch in 2010. It’s been released theatrically, has won over 17 awards and was released on Showtime.
The film was a bit active in the Caribbean community this year – we screened it at CaFA Film Nights last September, and it was a part of the 2013 Curacao International Film Festival, where it was nominated for a Yellow Robin Award.
Stud Life is a light take on the darker side of queer street life in London directed and written by CampbellX and produced by Nadya Kassam and Stella Nwimo. The film is a post-modern LGBT She´s Gotta Have It for the YouTube generation. Stud Life deals with sex and sexuality and taboo subjects in the queer community. It takes the viewer into a slice of life of an urban gay scene where casual sex, and drug taking is not treated as deviant behaviour. Where gender is up for grabs but desire follows very strict rules. Where violence can be part of sex as well as random attacks on the street.
The film was screened at the Caribbean Tales Film Showcase in 2012 and in Jamaica, in 2013.
For more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer here:
The Dash Out Boys Series: Episode 1
by The Pink Report
This series is being created as a way exploring relationship issues faced by LGBT Jamaicans. This first episode was created using funding from the UNFPA and Jamaican Red Cross. The creators are working on raising the funds needed to complete production on the series. For more information on the Pink Report and the work they’re doing, please visit their blog. If you’re interested in supporting financially, contact them here. Watch a the first episode here:
Taboo Yardies is a documentary which explores the perception of Jamaica as an island saturated with homophobia. It does this by providing Jamaicans who are pro, con and everywhere in between on this highly controversial issue, an opportunity to share their own realities. It also gives a voice to those Jamaicans who dare to speak out about the intolerance and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Jamaicans, particularly as it pertains to their human rights. The film hopes to give viewers an opportunity to decide for themselves whether the view of Jamaica as a homophobic/homo-intolerant culture is perception or reality. More importantly, it is hoped that the film becomes a vehicle that spurs an open an honest conversation that ultimately promotes respect and tolerance for all people regardless of sexual orientation. This documentary is unashamedly in support of human rights and against violence being advocated and/or perpetrated against lesbians, gay bisexuals and transgendered Jamaicans.
The documentary “You Are Not Alone” is produced by NYABJ Award winner and Guyanese, Antoine B. Craigwell. As a documentary, “You Are Not Alone” is a little more than a run-of-the-mill film. While containing the basic elements of its genre – interviews with subjects telling their stories and mental health professionals placing these experiences and anecdotes in perspective, and at the same time presenting relevant statistics to support their respective positions; it nudges the envelope of understanding and acceptance a little further along. Using his creativity, skill and expertise, Stanley Bennett Clay listened to the interviews, wrote a script and directed re-enactments of the stories he heard. He moved the film from being a staid production of “talking heads” into, as he says, “some Hollywood thrown in”. While the film maintains the hard hitting edge of a documentary, it gently blurs the line between what is and what could be, moving into the realm of a docu-drama, and illuminating through examples, many of the underlying issues Black gay men are dealing with, but never talked about.
This film breaks a taboo in the Black community; it exposes the raw truths behind the silent pain many Black gay men experience and live with. The resounding message in the documentary is that a Black gay man who feels as though he has no place in the world, that he has value and purpose, that all he needs to do is reject the denials of who he is, accept himself and he could realize and achieve his potential in life. It celebrates the lives of Black gay men and shows that there is life after depression; that, as the late Taylor Siluwe said, “It doesn’t have to rob you of your joy”. Rev. Kevin Taylor says, “I don’t do Black, I be Black; I don’t do male, I be male; I don’t do gay, I be gay .
For additional information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer here:
“SHE,” is a documentary short, which examines the lives of several female impersonators living in the Bahamas. During the annual Ms. Drag Bahamas beauty contest, Kevin Taylor and Kareem Mortimer speak to several drag performers and transgendered women about their lives in the Bahamas.
Synopsis: Elliot Loves, tells the story of Dominican-American Elliot Ayende, at two stages of his life: as a 9-year-old who is side-kick and confidant to his barely-keeping-it-together single mom; and as a 21-year-old looking for love in New York City. It is a comedy-drama that shows you can survive anything life throws at you — just “keep it cute, papi.” This award-winning, groundbreaking, gay Latino comedy drama is now showing on HBO, HBO Latino and HBO GO! Available on Amazon and iTunes! For more information, visit the film’s FB page. Watch the trailer here:
THE ABOMINABLE CRIME, at heart, is a story about a mother’s love for her child and an activist’s troubled love for his country. It also gives voice to gay Jamaicans who, in the face of endemic anti-gay violence, are forced to flee their homeland. Told first hand as they unfold, these personal accounts take the audience on an emotionally gripping journey traversing four years and five countries. Their stories expose the roots of homophobia in Jamaican society, reveal the deep psychological and social impacts of discrimination on the lives of gays and lesbians, and offer an intimate first-person perspective on the risks and challenges of seeking asylum abroad.
We’ll wrap this up for now with a look at The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)’s LGBT Film Festival (Guyana)
In its ninth year, this year’s Festival, Painting the Spectrum 9, ran from June 9-25, 2013. As the only film festival of its kind in the Caribbean, the Festival featured local and international LGBT-themed films. Some of the Caribbean LGBT films featured at the Festival include You are not Alone, ad documentary produced by Guyanese journalist Antoine Craigwell, and My Wardrobe, My Right, a documentary produced by another Guyanese, Neil Marks, The Dash Out Boy Series, and Children of God by Kareem Mortimer. This unsung and pioneering Festival showcases the experiences of LGBT people from as far as Cameroon, Lebanon, Egypt, United States, Canada, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Bangladesh.
Let’s see what’s in store for us this year!!!