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Thursday, June 20, 2013

BORN THIS WAY Review - Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2013

2013, 82 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullman’s Born This Way is a slight piece on an important topic: homosexuality in Cameroon.  In Cameroon, homosexuality is illegal, thus causing many issues for gays and lesbians there.  The film follows a few gay and lesbian people in Cameroon and shows us what life is like for these poor people every day.

Life is incredibly hard for homosexuals in Cameroon.  People are killed and abused simply for loving someone of their same gender.  This is a film that calls for people to be aware of what is happening in Cameroon and is an eerie mirror to America, what with the recent killing of a gay man on the NYC streets and the lack of gay rights in America today.  While America’s laws are nowhere near what Cameroon’s are, they nonetheless are restrictive of gays and lesbians.  While many may be shocked at the human rights abuses in Cameroon, our own government is doing something similar by not allow homosexuals to marry.

This film is a very intimate portrait of members of the gay community in Cameroon.  Some sections are incredibly revealing, but also humanizing.  Throughout the course of the film, we get to know the main subjects well thanks to Kadlec and Tullman’s excellent ability to capture some extraordinary scenes.  In one scene, a lesbian woman finally comes out to the Mother Superior who is like a mother to her.  The woman had wanted to tell the Mother Superior for some time but was always afraid that she would not respond well.  The way this scene plays out is beautiful and shows that there is still hope in this incredibly homophobic world.  Because of scenes like this, this film needs to be seen, as it puts a human face on a very timely topic. 

As important as this film is for people to watch, it feels too slight to truly be universal.  While its message of tolerance can be applied anywhere, the film focuses only on those in Cameroon and is not ambitious enough to try to branch out from there.

Overall, Born This Way is a documentary that I believe everyone should see.  While it is not the masterpiece of the century or the last word on gay rights, it is certainly a humanistic film that casts light on a section related to gay rights never touched upon by the American media.  My hope is that, in the very least, this film will get people talking.

Born This Way will be showing tonight at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at 9:15 pm and on June 22 at 7:15 pm at IFC Center.


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