Sun | Dec 11, 2016

US film gives voice to gay J'cans

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera
Micah Fink
Simone Edwards
Simone Edwards (LEFT) and her daughter Khalya.
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American journalist, film director and producer, Micah Fink's only connection to Jamaica is through his heart.

It is now obvious that his heart bleeds barely by witnessing the culture of homophobia, which he says has contributed significantly to pushing up the country's HIV rate.

Fink, through funding from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, has produced a documentary titled, The Abominable Crime, which he says, exposes gross human rights violations against homosexuals in Jamaica.

The film, which is the curtain call for the Afropop Film Festival in New York, tomorrow, features a lesbian single mother - Simone Edwards, who survives a homophobic shooting and must choose between escaping from Jamaica alone, or risk everything by staying with her daughter, is how the film has been presented to the international community.

Jamaican human rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson, who after marrying his Canadian partner, received death threats and was forced to flee the country after being 'outed', is the other subject of the feature. Tomlinson apparently wants to return to Jamaica to continue his activism, noting other lives were at risk.

"This is a film that gives voice to gay Jamaicans forced to flee their homeland due to endemic anti-gay violence," said Fink, pointing out that as a heterosexual man, he is not trying to force the hands of the government into changing the buggery laws, rather, "I am hoping that people will come to understand the damage that has been done by Jamaica's culture of homophobia".

The film will air on WORLD Channel at 8 p.m., ET/10 p.m., PT, as the final episode of the innovative Afropop documentary series on contemporary art, life and culture in the African Diaspora. Afropop is hosted by actress Yaya DaCosta, executive-produced by National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and co-presented by American Public Television (APT).

WORLD reached 35 million unique viewers 18 and older last year (55 per cent adults 18-49) and over-indexes in key diversity demographics. Online, the WORLD Channel expands on broadcast topics and fuels dialogue across social media, providing opportunities for broad and diverse audience interaction.

Fink, who has a Masters degree in journalism from Colombia University, said he was inspired to do the film when he was commissioned to do a piece on HIV/AIDS. The Ministry of Health, he said, had just published a finding that 33 per cent of the persons with HIV/AIDS were men who had sex with men (MSMs). "That figure at the time, placed them at the top in the world, so I was forced to question why Jamaica should have such a high infection rate," said the film director.

According to the writer, who worked for several years with PBS Television and produced films for HBO, National Geography and CNN, when he sought to find out from Members of Parliament (MPs), why the level of violence against gays was high, he was told, 'it was a lie there was no violence against gays'. However, when he went to the gay community, the stories were horrifying and shocking.

"I met Simone Edwards, who had just been shot and was now out of the hospital. She had a job as a barber in Half-Way Tree, she had to move out of her community. She had to be in hiding. She then had to make a difficult decision of whether to flee the country without her daughter or stay and be killed."

Fink says the children of gays are considered the evil seed in Jamaica and this and more is showcased in the film, and so are the stories of the stab wounds, machete cuts and houses set on fire.

He reveals he was taken aback by the horror stories and what he saw in Jamaica, "I have never seen this elsewhere. The United States has violence against gays. But it is not part of the culture, not as intense as Jamaica. This has been the focus of the whole set of cultural values for the people of Jamaica," he lamented.

The film producer says he is convinced that Jamaica will not successfully address HIV/Aids infection without dealing with the rate in the gay community.

"Public education for gays does not exist in Jamaica, at least not from the government," he said.

"My hope is that The Abominable Crime, will help shatter stereotypes about gays and lesbians, said Fink. "We encourage viewers to take a deeper look at homophobia, including some of the long-term impacts of it on individuals and on the Jamaican society at large, including on the battle against the HIV pandemic."

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com