Kenya: Human Rights Film Festival showcases films from around the world

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Last week, the Human Rights Watch had their annual film festival. It showcased five films that highlighted various issues from different parts of the world.

In Born this Way, the lives of members of LGBTI community in Cameroon is put under the microscope. The film starts off with the narrator asking Gertrude and her partner if they can kiss in public, to which she says no for fear of being persecuted and sentenced to three to five years in jail. The film moves on to Cedric preparing himself to go for a night out with his friends.

One of the things highlighted in the film is the constant fear that Cedric, Gertrude and others have to face everyday. Cedric is attacked by unknown assailants as he was coming home one evening and he was forced to move away to a different and safer place. To them, this is a cycle of survival they have to go through because once they are in a new place it is only a matter of time before someone attacks them for their sexuality. Gertrude and two of her friends were attacked by homophobes who raped them. One of her friends died, the other was paralysed and she woke up in hospital five days after the incident.

For Gertrude, reconciling the fact that she is a Christian and a homosexual is hard, even though she gets support from her friends and other members of the LGBTI community at the Alternative Cameroon, a gay rights centre for HIV.

For most homosexual people, coming out is also a struggle. In the film, Gertrude travels to her village to come out to her mother superior at the convent to come out to her. The nun understands and accepts her as she is. Things are different for Cedric, who vows to never come out to her siblings or mother because it will break her.

One of the heroes in the film is Alice Nkom, a gay-rights lawyer who works hard to not only offer legal aid to her clients but also look for places of safety for them to stay. She adds that her work is quite tasking as many people do not understand LGBTI community. But even with all the threats and prosecution coming their way, they opt to stay in Cameroon to fight for their rights.

The other films shown during the festival included Big Men and Watchers of the Sky. Big Men followed the process that followed the oil discovery in the coast of Ghana. It looks at the impact of oil discovery on the community and explores the complexity of life brought about by greed, self interest and conflict.

In Watchers of the Sky, the life of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the name genocide and who promoted human rights is highlighted. The viewer gets to see the effort of the man through the eyes of different human rights activists such as Samantha Power and former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and UN Refugee Agency's Emmanuel Uwurukundo who had to deal with the plight of refugees in camps.

The selection of the films this year was timely and relevant as it looks at the different matters that are close to home- from the discovery of oil in Turkana to the discussion of domestic violence.

Source: The Star  19 November 2014