Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, December 8: BORN THIS WAY
Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann’s profile of gay and lesbian life in Cameroon bowed at Berlin in 2013. Its fest circuit also included Human Rights Watch, Durban, Frameline, Outfest, and LGBT fests in London, Seattle, Copenhagen, Sydney, and Boston, among others.
In the West African nation of Cameroon, like other parts of the continent, homosexuality is considered a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. Those accused face persecution and ostracism from their community, forced to leave jobs and homes, and, in harsher cases, rape, physical violence, and murder. Los Angeles-based filmmakers Kadlec and Tullmann, learning about the persecution after meeting a Cameroonian physician who founded Alternatives Cameroun, the first LGBT center in his country, set out to chronicle the struggles and the triumphs of the young LGBT community that has been defiantly coming out of the shadows to fight for their rights. Against the hostile background, they film on the sly, even smuggling in a hidden camera to a courtroom to hear the case against accused lesbians, but for the most part they film their subjects more conventionally in safe spaces, such as the LGBT center. Several individuals are profiled, with the bulk of the focus on Gertrude, a devoutly religious lesbian raised by nuns who struggles to come out to her Mother Superior during the film; and Cedric, who is forced to find a new apartment after he is attacked one night. While the very well-intentioned film succeeds in its overarching mission to help increase visibility for gay and lesbians, it never quite digs deeply enough into Cameroonian society, culture, or history to contextualize just why homophobia is so rampant or to ascertain what possibilities there are for changing attitudes and laws.