Queer Africa – films against persecution

The feature ilm DAKAN by Mohamed Camara of Guinea begins with a long shot of two African men kissing in a red sports car. It is considered the irst ilm about homosexuals in Africa. When it was presented in 1997 at the FESPACO ilm festival in Ouagadougou (it premiered in Cologne one year later), most African ilm critics found it to be a “barely tolerable provocation”. In its critique of the ilm, the otherwise rather liberal film magazine Écrans d’Afrique attempted to defame homosexuality as but a big-city curiosity – a Western import into only a few of Africa’s major cities: “Nothing allows us to accept the conclusion that homosexuality exists as human behaviour.” The director Camara said at the time: “I made a ilm about a simple love story. That is all. Full stop.” But even today, for African filmmakers there is nothing “simple” about portraying anything other than heterosexual relationships in their ilms. The main characters in Nadia El Fani’s 2003 feature ilm BEDWIN HACKER are bisexual women, and the ilm was a similarly rare exception to the heteronormative rule as 2011’s SKOONHEID (BEAUTY), about the clandestinely practiced homosexuality in the macho pioneer society of the South African Boers.

Only recently have more ilms arisen that cover discrimination against people of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersexual (LGBTI) orientations. One reason for this is that in many countries across the continent, persecution of people who do not meet heterosexual “norms” has increased through homophobic campaigns by religious fanatics of various denominations. Another reason is that discrimination against LGBTI individuals in Africa is becoming increasingly visible at the international level. As such, reports about it have appeared more frequently in European newspapers, radio and television shows in the past year. At the end of 2013, the culture portal “africulture” published an extensive book entitled ”Homosexualités en Afrique“. NGOs organised trips with activists. Amnesty International began its highly visible, Germany-wide poster campaign “Fünf Jahre Haft für einen Kuss“ (Five Years in Prison for One Kiss) and awarded its 2014 Human Rights Award to barrister Alice Nkom, who is active in Cameroon for the rights of LGBTI individuals and was a guest of Rubicon in Cologne in March 2014.