Selena Blake's new documentary 'Taboo: Yardies' which takes a look at homophobia in Jamaica is due to be released in the near future, it's been talked about a lot in the press recently so here is some more info on the film....
Selena Blake looks at Jamaican homophobia with 'Taboo: Yardies.'
Thursday, July 24th 2008, 5:45 PM (Taken From The Daily News)
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Writer, producer and director Selena Blake interviews gay and straight Jamaicans about the island nation's treatment of homosexuals in her documentary, tentatively titled 'Taboo: Yardies.'Any doubts about how deeply homophobia is ingrained in Jamaica, West Indies, culture were put to rest in May when Prime Minister Bruce Golding told the British Broadcasting Channel that there were no homosexuals in his cabinet and none would be allowed to serve.
Golding's declaration came after attacks against gays, or "batty-man" in island vernacular, prompted calls for tourist boycotts of the island nation, whose economy is highly dependent on tourism.
Queens filmmaker and native-born Jamaican Selena Blake is looking at the real cost and extent of the island's contentious relationship with its current and former gay residents.
Blake, 45, of Long Island City, has tentatively titled her documentary "Taboo: Yardies." She's interviewing gay and straight Jamaicans in this country and in Jamaica about the island's unapologetically ill treatment of its homosexual population.
"This is not just about a person's sexual preference," Blake said. "This is a human rights issue. People are trying to tell other people what they should do to make them happy. But another person's personal life is none of your business."
Gay Jamaicans have been harassed and beaten by mobs - last year a group of men threw bottles through a church window during a funeral service for a gay man, eventually entering the church and demanding the funeral be halted.
In February, a gay police officer, Michael Hayden, was forced to flee the country for Canada because of death threats he received after coming out. Hayden said he was regularly harassed by his law enforcement colleagues, and accused police of doing little to halt the violence.
In other reports, gay men accuse Jamaican police of being their tormentors.
Violence against gays there prompted Human Rights Watch to issue the 2004 report "Hated to Death: Violence and Jamaica's HIV/AIDS Epidemic."
The attacks have prompted several gay and human rights groups here to call for a tourist boycott of the island, an action several Canadian legislators also have urged.
Blake is writer-director of "Queensbridge; The Other Side," a documentary on the history of Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where she still lives. The film was well-received - it appeared in a number of film festivals and is now part of Social Studies lesson plans in 50 New York City public schools.
Blake immigrated to New York from Kingston, Jamaica, when she was 16 years old. She still retains a bit of her accent and much love for her home country.
"What's going on with gay-bashing in Jamaica is sad because there are so many other issues the country needs to be dealing with, like gun violence," she said.
Blake has interviewed gay and straight Jamaicans in Washington and Boston, some of whom were directly affected by the violence and others who managed to grow up with it and remain relatively unscathed.
Her subjects include Bishop Zachary Jones, a Jamaican native who pastors Unity Fellowship Church, an East New York, Brooklyn, church built around a majority gay congregation, and Kenneth Reeves, a Jamaican expatriate who is now a Cambridge, Mass., city councilman.
Blake said she wants to show the wide-ranging effect homophobia has on Jamaican lives, and the many forms it can take.
"I spoke to a female couple who are splitting up because one of the women wants to move back to Jamaica and the other says she won't live like that," Blake said.
Another interview was with Princess Princess, 43, mother of two and owner of the Déjà Vu Hair Utopia on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, who said she lived as a gay woman even before immigrating here 20 years ago.
Interviewed for this column, Princess said she never saw much violence against gays while living in Jamaica "because people would just cut and run." But she also found Golding's assertion that there were no gays in his cabinet laughable.
"It's not true what the prime minister said," she insisted. "Most of the gay people in Jamaica are closet gays. They're not being real with themselves or with the people around them."
D'Niscio Brooks, 36, is a concert prompter and originator of Carifest, the annual day-long concert by Caribbean artists he has held on Randalls Island since 1994.
Brooks said the event lost a lot of money last year after several gay organizations protested appearances by Buju Banton and Bounty Killa, popular singers who have recorded songs with gay-bashing lyrics.
"The artists all got paid," Brooks said. "The money came out of my pocket. I took the loss. Before the protests, New York 1 was the only station that would give us any coverage. After that, we were in all the mainstream media, but for the wrong reason.
"Mayor Bloomberg and several City Councilmen were all on my back about them," Brooks said, referring to Banton and Bounty Killa's appearances at Carifest. "I told them, and I told the artists, that Carifest has a code of conduct, and if they violated that code of conduct, they would be pulled from the stage.
"I told Buju that if he said anything anti-gay, I would turn off his mike and take him off the stage. He did and I did."
But the protest still hurt Carifest enough that poor ticket sales prompted Brooks to cancel this year's event.
For more info on this documentary visit the official 'Taboo: Yardies' website HERE