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Born This Way:  Gay and Lesbian in Cameroon    cover photo

Born This Way: Gay and Lesbian in Cameroon 2014

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Producer n/a
Directed by Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann
DVD , color, 88 min.



College - General Adult
Homosexuality, Africa, Human Rights, Religion

Date Entered: 07/20/2015

Reviewed by Johnnie N. Gray, Director of Media Services, Christopher Newport University

Hearing contemporary voices from inside an intolerant country is the essential drive of this documentary. Born This Way provides a look at the lives of two young adult, gay citizens of Cameroon. Because homosexuality is illegal in their country, gay culture and support are suppressed. Yet, in this oppressive environment, there exists a safe haven, “Alternatives Cameroon Center” in an unmarked building in the town of Douala. It is here that Cedric and Gertrude, come for support and lend a hand at helping other gay and lesbian people in the area. Cedric discusses threats and needing to move from his neighborhood as Gertrude struggles with coming out to her Mother Superior in her adoptive Catholic convent. The overall feeling the viewer gets from this documentary is that no one wants to cover up who they are or pretend to be someone they are not. They acknowledge that this is how they were born and that they are special being gay.

Further into the documentary, an outspoken lawyer for human and gay rights in Cameroon, Alice Nkom, is involved with the Center and follows the news in order to represent gays being persecuted by the government. Ms. Nkom, follows the case of a lesbian couple that the government arrested. Hidden camera footage shows court proceedings and the exit of the couple as they are whisked away for their own safety. They end up at the center in Douala and are welcomed and invited to a party. This ends the documentary on a happy note as it shows that joy and freedom can exist, even if just for a little while, under an oppressive government.

The film is a realistic depiction allowing outsiders to see inside of a country were being homosexual is dangerous and frightening. It shows just how far Cameroon (and other African nations) need to move towards an accepting and inclusive society. While there are quite a few documentaries on human rights in African nations, this particular examination of homosexuality in Cameroon is an essential part of understanding how many African nations view being gay. It is one of the few to recently come out depicting being gay in Africa. In this film, the character portraits show real people dealing with serious issues in their country. At the end, the viewer sees that they must make a choice or perish.

Awards

  • Winner, Best Documentary Outfest
  • Winner, Golden Butterfly, Amnesty International;
  • Winner, Best Documentary, Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Madrid