“Call Me Kuchu”
Hate and Intolerance in Uganda
David Kato was Uganda’s first openly gay male and this is the story of his life and death. It documents his life and the lives of three fellow activists and we see them fighting persecution and then there is murder and shock everywhere in the world. It is one thing to be aware of African homophobia but it is something else to actually see it. Uganda seems to be the most extreme—gay people or “kuchus” are beaten, harassed and stoned to death. There is even a new bill before the Ugandan parliament that would impose the death sentence on HIV positive gay men and a three year prison sentence for anyone who does not report a known homosexual—even a child or family member. Intolerance burns in the minds of the people, the church and the American evangelical movement. A local newspaper makes it a practice of outing homosexuals on its first pages and then encouraging violence upon those outed.
None of this stopped David Kato and he protested publicly and even went to the United Nations putting himself and fellow activists in great danger and ultimately losing his life as a result of his sexuality and activity. His death caused the country to sit up and take notice and the gay community lost a valuable resource. Kato has since become the catalyst for African change.
The movie opens the entire situation to world view as it shows us his personal journey. He was bludgeoned to death in his bed and the world cried but we also see that nothing has really been learned by this. Yet we do get a sense of hope and we feel that good with come out of this.
First-time directors Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall effectively give us quite a documentary in “Call Me Kuchu”. “They follow two critical years in Uganda’s gay rights movement, which challenged the country’s strict anti-sodomy laws. The charismatic and eloquent David Kato, who discovered the freedom of his sexual identity on a long stay in South Africa, returns in his forties to be the first openly gay man in his home country. He dreams that his family farm could be a safe haven for the gay community, though his confused mother still hopes for grandchildren. Then extreme legislation is proposed that requires the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a homosexual. Their persecutors are conscientiously interviewed, most chillingly the smiling editor of the weekly Rolling Stone tabloid (obviously having nothing to do with the U.S. magazine) that publishes photos and addresses of scores of LGBT individuals under headlines like “Hang Them.” Fire and brimstone American evangelicals are seen preaching against gays to local crowds, but their role and reasons to target Uganda are left murky. While there was international diplomatic and media outrage last year over the murdered gay rights activist, the violence and its aftermath strikes with more horror because the victim is first seen on screen so alive and determined. Although the suspenseful film covers the brave activists’ lawsuit against the newspaper, it is a stark reminder that media crusades aren’t always on the side of human rights”.
- Posted in: GLBT documentary