kaos at the 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

Taboo Yardies

"It’s not illegal to be gay in Jamaica but legal sanction is the least of your worries. Jamaican society is profoundly and murderously homophobic. This utterly compelling account of how ordinary LGBT people exist under these conditions was filmed on the island itself. Extraordinary stories of violence and the constant living in fear make for sometimes uncomfortable viewing. Interview subjects tell of the casual and relentless attacks; their faces are digitally obscured because there is nowhere for an openly gay person to be safe on the island. The relationship between dancehall culture and some of its notorious artists is well known. Using interviews with a wide range of Jamaicans and leading cultural figures in exile, this is a wide-ranging film which explores how Jamaica got to be this way, and how some people are working for change."

Sometimes, good intentions just ain't enough, and without a doubt, Selena Blake's Taboo Yardies meant well.

Meandering and lumpy, Taboo Yardies limply circled issues like the corrective rape of lesbians, Jamaicans and the church, sodomy laws, and trans issues, without ever really drilling down into the nitty-gritty. There was no sense of structure, or narrative. Who were we supposed to be following in this? We jumped from one half-baked vox pop to another - the typical anti-gay Jamaican in the street here, a transgender person there, a lesbian, various people (Jamaican ex-pats?) in New York. Blake's scatter-gun approach left me cold, unable to care very much about the subject. Where was JFLAG? Where was Maurice Tomlinson? Sorry to say, I was bored out of my skull most of the time.

I really wanted to like Taboo Yardies, but there was just nothing to get your teeth into, and I can only imagine that its intended audience is a thinking straight one; for the average battyman, everything here is old, old news.

Tomorrow I'm seeing Always/Never.
Check back for my review on Sunday!


John G said...

I agree with your review entirely, tho I think there were features of interest. I must admit I was depressed by the sense of there being no progress to speak of despite the new prime minister. Perhaps the most interesting part was during the Q&A afterwards when the director described screening the film in the university at Kingston, JA, something she felt wouldn't have happened even three years earlier. Also, referring to the beating of a supposedly gay student by university security guards, she said the authorities did say they wanted such a thing 'never to happen again' & gave that as part of the reason for letting the film be shown. So, small shoots of hope. But this is very much a film for uninformed but somewhat curious straight folks - above all straight Jamaicans - & isn't very rewarding for gay folks, & it's lacerating to see the suffering of our people in such places.

Zee Jai said...

Lacerating, indeed, but her film doesn't communicate that. I was BORED, waiting for it to end.

Contrast that with, say, Sorious Samura's brilliant doc "Africa's Last Taboo"...


Bless Selena Blake for caring, and trying, but that's not enough. You need to engage people.

John G said...

Sourious Samura is a genius documentary-maker & his homophobia in Africa film is one of the best documentaries ever: he has both heart & guts, & his engagement with that couple in Malawi in the midst of their legal travails was really touching. You're right that Selena Blake was quite pulled-back by contrast, & simply less skilled (&, to be fair, less resourced). Yet I hope good will come out of her work amongst the straight folks.

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