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COOKIES & PRIVACY POLICY

Film review: Call me Kuchu

An important, timely comment on LGBT activism in Uganda, says our reviewer

Dora Mortimer

Thu, 06 Dec 2012 14:12:24 GMT | Updated 1 years today

Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill, which was successfully shelved last year due to pressure from the international community, has skulked its way back into the headlines complete with a shiny re-brand. Now David Bahati and cronies are downplaying the death penalty in favour of the cuddlier sounding life imprisonment. The bill has been packaged as a 'Christmas gift' for the people of Uganda. Those Ugandans who also happen to be gay will be unwrapping a gilded grenade come Xmas if the bill passes.

 

'Call me Kuchu', a documentary following gay activists in Uganda, could not be timelier. Directed by Malika Zouhall-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright the film follows David Kato, the LGBT rights activist who was murdered in January after being outed by Ugandan newspaper 'Rolling Stone'.

 

This documentary throws into relief just how courageous a campaigner Kato was. In a city where the judicial system and government are infested with institutionalised homophobia he successfully sues the newspaper that defiled him. The bravery and humour with which Kato and his supporters handle themselves make the wrongheadedness of those like Rolling Stone editor Giles Muhame all the harder to stomach. In my screening someone swore aloud when Muhame proclaimed he had no part in Kato's death. The film offers a look at both camps and touches on American conservatives like Scott Lively who have heavily influenced the anti-homosexuality bill. Lively's shtick is that homosexuality is a western invention, a learned evil. As the film digs deeper it becomes clear that homophobia not homosexuality is the export, one that is snowballing fear across the continent (new laws up for debate in Nigeria bear a scary resemblance to 'Kill the Gays').

 

The film is punctuated with newly spewed headlines like 'Homo generals to blame for terror attacks in Kampala', which would seem farcical if they weren't so tragic. The frenzied fear mongering - we hear "homosexuality is not a human right" more than twice - chillingly recalls Nazi thought lines. The evil ring of child-converting gays is a persuasive fiction pulling focus off the country's biting problems of poverty and corruption.

 

'Call me Kuchu' is a tough and important watch. The scenes where David is joking around with his mum or the part where he and his friends stage an impromptu drag contest are a wonderful foil to all the hate rhetoric. These are glimpses of a minority trying to carve their own space in a society that rejects them. David Kato never got to build the 'gay commune' he fantasises about in the film, but you get the suspicion that he's laid some bricks of steel.

 

Peter Tatchell, who featured on a panel discussion after the screening declared that the film speaks of a need to uncover Uganda's lost gay history. The authors of the anti-homosexuality bill are desperate for LGBT people to 'unlearn' themselves. There has to be a will to remember pulling against that drive to forget. Because surely if humanity's origin is in Africa so too is homosexuality's.

 

Upcoming UK screenings:

 

Thursday 06 December

Gloucester - Gloucester Guildhall

Monday 10 December

Colchester - University of Essex Students' Union (LTB 10) - Popup Cinema Screening

Thursday 13 December

Sheffield - Showroom

Monday 25 February

London - Riverside Studios

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