We are delighted to report that the latest PBI film by Manu Valcarce has been selected for three film festivals. In July, we learnt that it had been selected for FilmPride Festival 2020, where it was screened alongside more than 50 LGBTQI+ films from up-and-coming directors. FilmPride is part of the Brighton and Hove Pride festival, one of the largest and most successful in the world.

We were recently told that it had also been accepted for the Queer Vision Film Festival, as part of a collaboration between Bristol Pride and Encounters Film Festival. The festival presents a diverse programme of LGBTQI+ films from around the globe, including independently-made feature, animation and award-winning short films.

And finally, our film will be shown at the Film for Peace, an experiential, creative initiative that addresses the escalation of violence. The key objective of the festival is to raise awareness of the underlying contributing factors leading to violence, such as bullying, mental health, addictions, social isolation, poverty, rejection of minority groups, etc. with the hope of finding viable solutions to reduce violence. As the film was funded by the Canadian Embassy, we are particularly pleased that it will be shared to a Canadian audience.

We Are Not Who They Say We Are tells the story of Arcoiris, a group of LGBTQI+ human rights defenders in Honduras supported by PBI. In recent years the organisation has faced mounting attacks and threats following relentless public abuse and stigmatisation. This has even escalated to numerous assassination attempts on the coordinators of the organisation.

Prejudice from the police and judiciary means that these attacks go largely unpunished, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be an LGBTQI+ human rights defender. The film reveals both the severity of the risks they face and their determination to further their struggle.

PBI UK Director Susi Bascon and film director Manu Valcarce had the opportunity to interview and collect the inspiring testimonies of its members in 2019. They aimed to document the human rights abuses that the LGBTQI+ (particularly the transgender) community are suffering in Honduras, and make the international community aware of the courageous work they do in the face of adversity. Over the course of the interviews they learnt the ways in which hate crime lay at the root of attacks against the community, and how prejudice from the police and judiciary means that these attacks go largely unpunished.

The film is part of our multimedia project The Right to Defend, Portraits of Resilience, Hope and Solidarity and intends to raise awareness of the courageous work done by LGBTQI+ defenders in Honduras. This film has been funded by the Canadian Embassy in Honduras as part of an effort to galvanise support for Arcoiris and the LGBTQI+ community in Honduras. We continue to provide holistic protection and tailored support to Arcoiris in response to the risks their members face on a daily basis.

According to LGBTQI+ collective Arcoiris, since 2009 at least 325 LGBTQI+ people, mainly trans women, have been killed in Honduras. Those who survive seldom report it for fear of the consequences as they continue to receive death threats and harassment. Research shows that at least 60% of the hate crimes are carried out by the armed forces. Impunity rates in the cases that are reported is 98%.

At the request of Arcoiris PBI has monitored levels of risk level diplomatic protection for members of Arcoiris, due to the high levels of threats and intimidation that their members experience. Arcoiris provides a safe space for LGBTQI+ people in Honduras who are stigmatised and marginalised, and a home for many trans women who would otherwise have nowhere to go.

We are very grateful to Manu Valcarce for his commitment and dedication to film-making and to human rights. Manu is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in London. He has worked on projects ranging from the lives of Muslim transsexuals living in Jakarta, Indonesia, to those affected by austerity in rural Spain. His work has been screened in the Tate Modern as part of the Uniglo Tate Lates and exhibited in solo and collective shows as well as photography festivals.

Speaking to PBI UK, Manu linked his own experiences with the film-making process:

‘As a gay man growing up in 1990s Spain - when attitudes were not as open-minded as they are today - I can relate to the pain suffered by the LGBT+ community in countries yet to experience that transformation. Growing up with repression at home, glares and verbal abuse in the streets, and negative representation in the media persist all over the world.’

‘However, the situation in Honduras went beyond anything I could have experienced or even imagined. The LGBT+ community often talks of posttraumatic growth, and I saw in these incredible human rights defenders an example of how to direct your pain to fight passionately for your rights, and to help others going through similar experiences. I learned so much about the resilience and solidarity of my community, which I found deeply inspiring.’

PBI has been offering moral support and tailored protection and security monitoring for Arcoiris since 2015. The leaders of the Association report being the victims of attacks, threats and harassment, and that these attacks were aimed to destabilise the organisation.

During the second half of 2015, PBI has reported more than 15 security incidents against members of Arcoíris, including surveillance, harassment, detentions, assaults, robberies, theft, threats, sexual assault and even murder. Several members have been forced into exile abroad, including Donny Reyes (Arcoiris director) and Esdra Yaveth Sosa (Arcoiris coordinator). In early 2020, trans rights defender Scarlet Cambel was murdered.

Since 2009, Arcoiris leader Donny Reyes has been the beneficiary of precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect his safety, but to date the Honduran authorities have not properly implemented these measures, as reported by several international organisations.

At the request of Donny and due to the levels of risk faced by members of his organisation, PBI has been engaging the diplomatic corps and our international networks of support across 14 countries to ensure Arcoiris can continue supporting its members.