ttff 2014’s Filmmaker in Focus: Micah Fink and “The Abominable Crime”

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More on the 2014 ttff. One of their Filmmaker in Focus columns centers on director Micah Fink (Jamaica/USA), whose film, The Abominable Crime, seeks to get to the roots of homophobia in Jamaican society, revealing the psychological and social impacts of discrimination on the lives of gays and lesbians. Told as they unfold over several years, these personal, intimate accounts of discrimination and violence perpetrated against gays in Jamaica take the audience on an emotional journey. The film just won the Amnesty International Prize (given to a Caribbean film that best highlights a human rights issue). [Also see our previous post Film: “The Abominable Crime,” Documentary about Being Gay in Jamaica Debuts in US.]

Here are excerpts of an interview of the director with ttff blogger Aurora Herrera:

abominable_crime_director-602x401[. . .] With this film, did you have Jamaican friends or links to what was going on? How did you come to want to make a film about it?  That film has its roots in another project that I was commissioned to do by the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting to go down to Jamaica to look at: HIV/Aids. As you probably know, Jamaica has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world particularly when it comes to their gay community. The year I went down, the government had just reported that one out of every three gay men in Jamaica was testing positive for HIV and the question was why would that be happening in Jamaica? What are the social, political and cultural factors that would create one of the highest infection rates in the Western hemisphere? It’s also one of the highest rates in the world. So that began my work in Jamaica. What we uncovered is really how the culture of homophobia drives the Aids epidemic and also has a huge collateral impact on all sorts of people like Simone, and Kayla, her daughter, who become the main characters of The Abominable Crime.

[. . .] What was it like for you getting to know their stories and becoming involved or were you able to be completely objective all the time? You know it’s funny because I have actually come to love Jamaica and its people. There are so many parts of the culture which are just so warm and welcoming but it’s sort of like you have this new best friend and they have this cancer on their forehead and I think at this point it’s hard for me to look away from that now because it so deeply impacts the lives of so many people that I’ve met. I think I have a complex relationship with Jamaica these days. On one hand I love the people, the place and the culture and on the other hand I’m deeply saddened that this one thing should so harm so many people. And not just people like Simone and her daughter and Maurice who have to leave, but people who live there and then more than that, HIV/Aids impacts everybody. It’s not just the gay community that’s impacted. [. . .]

In the film you feature the lyrics of the Buju Banton song “Boom Bye Bye”, which is about killing gay people. Homophobic lyrics are pervasive in Jamaican music. What are your thoughts on this?  I danced to that music. I had no idea what they were saying. That music is everywhere. The first year I was in Jamaica, I was just amazed how on the busses, in the cabs, that kind of music, particularly homophobic music, was being played everywhere all the time! It’s just the background to daily life.

This isn’t mentioned in the film but shortly after his first visit back to Jamaica, the Royal Canadian police found a pressure cooker filled with nails, a bomb, on Maurice’s front step and they had to remove it. They didn’t want to talk about it at the time because they were doing an investigation, but I think this shows that the tension is real, even in a place like Toronto. It’s sad when you have the leaders of these movements exposed to that kind of violence and the high possibility of losing your life.

For full interview, see http://www.ttfilmfestival.com/2014/09/filmmaker-focus-micah-fink/

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