No Easy Walk to Freedom (2014)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is apart of our coverage for Inside Out Toronto: LGBT Film Festival which runs from May 22nd to June 1st. For more information on visit http://www.insideout.ca/ and follow Inside Out on Twitter at @InsideOutTO.
There are times when a person can feel selfish for being concerned with his/her own problems. This selfishness can be instilled when a parent tells a child about “starving children in Africa,” or it can be referenced in the often used “#firstworldproblems.” A globalized perspective is necessary to dispel Americentric/Eurocentric ideals and give a different take on universal issues. Nancy Nicol uses this globalized perspective in No Easy Walk to Freedom, a documentary that chronicles the effects of Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which criminalizes any “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The film not only looks at the issues from Indians’ perspectives, but it also examines the ways in which Eurocentric views have suppressed India’s openness with sexuality.
The film not only looks at the issues from Indians’ perspectives, but it also examines the ways in which Eurocentric views have suppressed India’s openness with sexuality.
Nicol begins the film with the Naz Foundation’s attempts to raise AIDS/HIV awareness, and their subsequent attacks by police forces who label volunteers as “sex workers” and “sexual deviants.” This entry point is necessary for two reasons: first it shows that Section 377 is not solely a gay issue, but a cultural issue that encompasses all sexualities, and second, it sets up the narrative framework for Nicol’s documentary. She is not content with simply scratching the surface of this equal rights issue, but she digs deep to find issues of cultural/willful ignorance on the part of the heterosexual majority. The interviewed activists are aware of this ignorance, which is why they fight against Section 377 from a variety of perspectives that encompass health care, women’s rights, and familial problems.
The film tackles the contemporary issues of Section 377 while also using a historical perspective to examine the roots of this sexual oppression. The talking heads look at the ways in which imperialism and colonization imposed Western values onto Indian culture, which traditionally accepted transsexuality and homosexuality (evidenced by a number of statues, paintings, artworks, and cultural figures that depict a wealth of sexualities). The film also looks to a complex future. Nicol doesn’t provide a false sense of hope, but reveals that the struggle will be long and arduous (Section 377 would be repealed by the Supreme Court, but reinstated by Parliament).
Nicol not only creates a complex portrait of this issue, but she presents it in an engaging manner.
A successful documentary exhausts its wealth of perspectives, creating a complex portrayal of a subject or an issue. Nicol not only creates a complex portrait of this issue, but she presents it in an engaging manner. Though the case against Section 377 is specific to India, the struggle is universal. It is a struggle for acceptance over second-class status, and it is also a struggle for societal knowledge over blind ignorance. The film examines these struggles through a foreign perspective, opening the viewers’ eyes to foreign cultures that are fighting for similar causes.
There is nothing easy about the fight to repeal Section 377, and Nancy Nicol’s camera is there to document the thoughts, opinions, and heartfelt emotions of those affected by this law.