It is hard to believe that it was just 30 years ago when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and recognised it as a “natural variant of human sexuality”. This change brought an annual celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Nevertheless, the abuse and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people still continue, and have somewhat become more violent in many parts of the world. One of those places is Jamaica; the lack of tolerance and brutality towards the LGBTQ+ community has forced many to live a secret life or hide away from the public eye.
When a young and celebrated Jamaican athlete, Jeffrey Jacobs, is brutally murdered, there are many questions raised by his grieving father. As he tries to get answers and justice for his son from the local police, more secrets are revealed about Jeffrey’s private life. While waiting for the results of an investigation that might never be concluded, the young man’s diary is found in which he described the details of his personal relationship with a man. As hard as it might be for a Christian father to comprehend that his beloved son was gay, he still desires to have Jeffrey buried in a religious ceremony. Faced with hatred from his neighbours, the old man can only rely on himself and his other son who came home after learning of his brother’s passing.
Photo © Right Near the Beach
Right Near the Beach by Gibrey Allen is an honest portrait of a Jamaican society that can hardly come to terms with accepting LGBTQ+ people as they are often seen as a ‘deviant’ community. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community can also lead to one’s death sentence. The father’s personal battle with the acceptance of his son’s sexuality takes the audience on an emotionally compelling journey, and while Allen exposes the roots of homophobia in Jamaican society, he indirectly demonstrates that the problem of this discrimination has also been a psychological issue itself.
Right Near the Beach’s characters being exclusively played by Jamaican locals added a poignant element to the already complex narrative. With Allen’s own father portraying the protagonist, one was left blown away by his stunning acting skills. In addition, a down-to-earth cinematography by Javier de Pablos-Vélez evoked a saddening mood throughout the film. The saturation, hue and brightness showed Pablos-Vélez’s ability to understand that colour has a direct and powerful impact on the viewer. With a shoestring budget, the cast and crew worked miracles and delivered not only a film about homophobia, but also a personal and intimate picture of what it means to accept a person for who they are and not for what society wants them to be.
Written by Maggie Gogler
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