Monday, March 7, 2011

good deeds ~ shoot 'dem like birds

this week's good deed is coming to you from one of my dear friends here in los angeles, and is a cause which is very close to my heart.  the hatred and prejudice which gay, lesbian, & transgender people regularly experience was recently brought to the world's attention when multiple young people committed suicide in reaction to their awful experiences.
in response, thousands of it gets better videos immediately sprung up, telling people to hang in there, that life really does get easier.  i loved seeing how many people rallied to support their fellow men & women, and we are so lucky to live in a place where it DOES get better.

but what if it didn't?  what if you were living in a culture and a country where, instead of getting better, it got worse?  
what if you had to keep who you were a secret because if anyone found out you were gay, you would be publicly stoned and mutilated in the streets while the entire city rejoiced?  and what if there was no one to help you because the people who would care, don't know this is happening?

this sort of horrific place that i'm talking about is not a "what if," it's real.  this place is jamaica.

one of my good friends, leslie, a documentary filmmaker, is currently raising money to shed light on this darkness.  he's planning a trip to jamaica this spring to begin working on a film, shoot 'dem like birds, which will show the world what is happening there.

 leslie was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his film:

can you give a brief description of what shoot 'dem like birds is?
Shoot 'Dem Like Birds is a documentary that will tell the story of LGBTQ Jamaicans and how difficult and dangerous it is to be gay in Jamaica.

what does your title, shoot 'dem like birds, mean?
The title of the film "Shoot 'Dem Like Birds" comes from the lyrics of a reggae song by Elephant Man. The entire line goes: "Battyman fi dead!/Please mark we word/Gimme tha tech-nine/Shoot dem like bird." "Battyman" is a derogatory word for gay men; we felt that the title was especially poignant in its imagery and the fact that "birds" is also a slang term for gay men. Jay Horniouchi, our illustrator, did a fantastic job of interpreting this as a metaphor. We've been using his image of two wounded birds intertwined as the logo and title  for the film. 

what inspired you to make this documentary?
There were a few factors that really convinced me and my film collective, Traveling Muse Pictures, that this was an important story to tell. I mean, for one thing, most people have no idea that this is happening in Jamaica. I certainly had no idea until around 2004, when I read an article in The Guardian newspaper about gay activist Brian Williamson, who was brutally murdered. What made his death even more sickening is that after his body was found, a mob gathered around the body dancing and singing. 

Our film collective's goal is to tell the stories of people who don't have a voice--to give them a voice. What better opportunity than the LGBTQ community in Jamaica to do that?

are there any complications or dangers with making the film?
We've been warned about the dangers of telling this story by folks living in Jamaica. This is the first time I've ever created a budget where the "emergency funds" aren't there just in case a camera breaks! We may have to slip out of the country if we make the wrong people angry. But at least we can leave! Imagine how it is for people who don't have the money to escape and seek asylum in the UK or US.

what are you hoping will happen as a result of making shoot 'dem like birds?
We hope that more people will know about these amazing and heartbreaking stories, that the voices of these courageous people are heard by more and more people, and that we can be part of a movement to change what has gone on for so long in the dark.

is there anything else you want people to know?
First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to read this, that's so important to me and the rest of the team. If you can, please donate, we need your help to be able to create this film. Please spread the word, and if you know anyone who wants to tell their own story, who is connected to this story, please let us know!


what you can do:
please take a minute and head over to their fundraising page.  while you are there, you can check out the promo video, get more information, and donate to the cause. there are options to donate $5 and $10, as well as higher amounts. when you think about it, $5 is just a morning latte, or a magazine, and $10 is a quick lunch out.  but to a good cause, it's one step closer to making the world a better place.  every little bit that you can give counts!

you can also help leslie give voice to these unheard stories by...
* spreading the word to others who may want to help fund this project.
* spreading the word to your company/job, which may be looking for tax-deductable charities.
* contacting traveling muse if you have questions, want to share an encouraging word, or have your own story connected to this film.

 i'm sure in a couple months i'll be hitting you guys up for your positive thoughts and prayers when leslie leaves for jamaica.  we're all holding our breaths in the hope that he'll be safe as he makes such a controversial, but important film to help those who are being .