Latina Filmmaker Documents “The World According to Homophobes”
By Joseph R. Castel
Last summer France became the 14th country in the world to legalize gay marriage but not without a contentious fight from the religious and conservative right. No other European country had ever waged such a cultural and political war as the one in France over the freedom to marry. Nearly a half million people took to the streets to protest same-sex marriage and according to gay rights activists it got brutal and ugly. Reports of homophobic incidents tripled during the six-month battle.
Most people view France as a fairly progressive country. It became a liberal sanctuary during the early part of the 20th century where notable American artists fled the U.S. for a freer society. Like the rest of the world, UCLA graduate filmmaker Emmanuelle Schick Garcia was taken by surprise over her country’s change of liberal views.
During the marriage maelstrom Schick Garcia found that it was not even safe to walk down the streets of Paris holding her girlfriend’s hand. “I d hear comments like ‘You gays are getting out of control.’ “And sometimes it would even be more aggressive to the point where a group of men would actually follow us with their stinging remarks and slurs getting creepier and creepier, ” says the former Los Angelino. “The saddest part is that we were becoming used to the verbal abuse.”
The filmmaker realized that the best way to create change in her country was with a camera. Her feature documentary “The World According to Homophobes” is slated for release in 2015.
She expects that “Homophobes” will be just as controversial as her first documentary, The Idiot Cycle, an award-winning film about six chemical companies that developed cancer causing compounds. It was shown on European and Russian television and is scheduled to be broadcast in Spanish On Demand Video, Dec. 1.
During France’s same-sex marriage debate, the 37-year-old filmmaker witnessed politicians spreading cancerous rhetoric from their sanctimonious pulpits to demonize the sexual behavior of the LGBT community.
The political hate mongers motivated Schick Garcia to investigate the underbelly of homophobia. In the film’s trailer we see several zealous lawmakers from Europe, Latin America and Africa shock their audiences with degrading verbiage of graphic sex acts that include everything from fisting to felching. Since the same-sex marriage debate has gone global, conservative leaders have ordained themselves as authoritative figures on what is morally acceptable in the bedroom. “I like to know why they are so obsessed with our sex lives,” she stresses.
Her curiosity and research has led her back to the Catholic Church. Growing up as a Catholic, she remembered that her grandmother from Spain would never talk about sex. There was a lot of shame attached to the subject. The filmmaker adds that in some cultures it is taught from the Bible that there is a natural order of sexual behavior. “Men are meant to penetrate, and women are meant to be penetrated,” says Schick Garcia. “If a man is penetrated than he’s coming down the ladder, that’s why he’s insulted, and considered less than. The man that’s penetrated is not a man.”
Unlike the United States, where religious influence fluctuates, the Catholic Church still has a strong hold on France and, according to Schick Garcia, its views are not evolving with the current times. “I think it’s terrible for gay children because it’s difficult for them to see beyond the things that they are being taught in Sunday school.” She believes the best weapon to fight these fear tactics is education.
After witnessing the Church’s apathy during France’s volatile marriage debate, Schick Garcia confesses that she doesn’t have a lot of faith, as others have, in the new pope. “I think our standards are too low and that we’ll take any little sign of approval from him as an indication of acceptance, but I don’t believe that he’s really all that tolerant,” she says. “I don’t think he’s done enough to help reign in the violence or squash homophobia as he could by simply stating we are equal.”
In preparation to filming in South America, the documentarian discovered that even in countries like Colombia where it’s unlawful to discriminate against members of the LGBT community; it’s still a huge impediment to be gay. “People find it so embarrassing to discuss. It’s like, ‘Shh, don’t talk about that,’ as if the person has cancer,” says Schick Garcia.
The UCLA film graduate hopes that her film will spark an intelligent debate about the origins of homophobic cultures and demonstrate that homophobia has less to do with the gay community and more with the hang-ups of the homophobes.