Published May 27, 2013Due to the sheer volume of information and the emotionally taxing nature of the stories of intolerance, hate and violent oppression presented, Taboo Yardies is a bit of an overwhelming experience.
To open her documentary on the perception of homosexuality in Jamaica, Selena Blake bombards the viewer with shocking headlines ripped from local newspapers. It paints a distinct picture: bigotry reigns supreme in this nation. But as troubling as the content of that stage-setting info flood is, it's nothing compared to the mix of heart and gut-wrenching personal confessions and unadulterated loathing expressed by many of the documentarian's interview subjects.
Treating her camera as an impartial observer, Blake questions a wide variety of Jamaican citizens about homosexuality and receives answers that cover a commensurately diverse gamut of emotions. Among those interviewed, there are many gradations of acceptance and tolerance expressed but the consensus is quite clear. With one man casually declaring, "I'd murder my own child" to the nodding approval of his buddies, it's safe to say that the majority of the public participate in a deeply ingrained cultural homophobia.
To illustrate how blinding this baseless fear is, it's revealed that many Jamaican men are so homophobic that they refuse prostate exams. None of the outspoken gay Jamaicans Blake interviews call this hotbed of hate home any longer. Mostly artsy types – authors, poets, painters, photographers – these activists had to escape the land of their ancestors to find a place where it's safe to be honest about one's sexual proclivities.
Being out in Jamaica means being a regular target of heinous hate crimes. Every admitted homosexual still living on Jamaican soil insisted on participating anonymously for fear of being beaten, ostracized, raped or murdered. The stories and scars – both mental and physical – these anonymous victims of being themselves share are difficult to stomach and paint a horrifying picture of the results of a culture steeped in regressive thinking based on the misinterpretation of religious doctrine.
To break up the steady flow of interviews, Blake inserts some news footage of assaults and tries to introduce some visual pizzazz in the form of quickly edited photo montages but such frills are unnecessary; Taboo Yardies succeeds by virtue of its powerful equal opportunity presentation of raw human experience and thought.
Maybe exposing the reprehensible repressive attitudes that seem to permeate every level of Jamaican government and society will help shame the nation out of the dark ages. (Maynov Productions)