January 11th, 2013

Me with Red Ribbon

Call Me Kuchu

Photo credit: http://dogwoof.com/films/call-me-kuchu

In Uganda, LGBT men and women are called Kuchus. This film is the extraordinary story of a courageous group of Kuchu activists, lead by the charismatic David Kato, as they fight for equality in the face of fundamentalist Christian pastors, exposés from tabloid journalists, and manipulative politicians who would have them imprisoned or executed for being HIV positive.

Cut and pasted from the Call Me Kuchu Website:

In Uganda, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato - Uganda's first openly gay man - and his fellow activists work against the clock to defeat the legislation while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives.

In an unmarked office at the end of a dirt track, veteran activist David Kato labours to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus.” But David’s formidable task just became much more difficult. A new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes death for HIV-positive gay men, and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. Inspired by American evangelicals who have christened Uganda ground zero in their war on the “homosexual agenda,” the bill awaits debate in Uganda’s Parliament. Meanwhile, local newspapers have begun outing kuchus with vicious fervor under headlines such as: “HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City.”

David, Uganda’s first openly gay man, is one of the few who dare to publicly protest state-sanctioned homophobia. Working with an idiosyncratic clan of fellow activists, David fights Uganda’s government and tabloids in the courts, on television, and at the United Nations. Because, he insists, “if we keep on hiding, they will say we’re not here.”

The official UK website is here:

And you can see the trailer here:

Raks's Reaction

David Kato and his Mum
Photo credit: http://entertainment.ie/movie-review/Call-Me-Kuchu/147041.htm

I first saw Call Me Kuchu on Monday 29 October 2012 at the Curzon Soho where it had its premiere. I saw it again today with the London Branch of GALHA (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association) and so I decided it was long overdue that I wrote about the film.

I was very keen to see the film last year, when it came out, because I knew next to nothing about the day to day lives of LGBT people in Africa. I had heard what the Ugandan and Nigerian Governments were planning to do - both have "Kill the Gays" Bills down to be debated and discussed - and I wanted to find out what daily life was like for LGBT people living in these countries. I had heard about the pioneering work of David Kato in Uganda and I was keen to learn more about the fight for LGBT rights and equality in Uganda.

On first viewing of this film, it really packs a punch. That was largely due to the fact that I was completely unaware of the fact that David Kato had been murdered during the shooting of this film, and so when this fact was revealed in the film it really hit me hard in the pit of my stomach.

I found the film deeply upsetting because I found it very difficult to accept that one group of human beings could treat another group of human beings (the kuchus) like this. I found the level of spite and hate directed at the kuchus deeply troubling and very upsetting. The film definitely made me see red and I would say that the film was powerful, emotional and moving.

The American Evangelical Preachers visiting Uganda, preaching that homosexuality is a sin, against the word of God, that gays would be damned, and spreading lies about gays recruiting young people in school and sodomising them, really were the scum of the earth. Using God's name, Jesus's name, to spread lies and deceit, and to stir up hate, encouraging persecution and harassment, was completely beyond the pale, and sickening. One day they will be held to account for their words and their actions, and that day cannot come soon enough!

I thought that this film was very effective for three key reasons:

Firstly, it portrayed the daily lives of the kuchus, especially when they were meeting eachother or when they gathered together as a group to celebrate their difference and to celebrate their lives. I also liked the fact that it showed them as part of a family and as part of Ugandan society. This breaks the myth that is all too often bandied around in Africa; that myth being that homosexuality is a Western import. It is not. Homosexuality has been part and parcel of all societies since the dawn of time.

Secondly, the film allowed me a glimpse into the daily lives of LGBT people in Uganda. That is the reason I had booked to see the film in the first place. The film enabled and empowered the kuchus to tell their own personal stories, in their own words, direct to camera. The filmakers of Call Me Kuchu, straight white Western women, had managed to bring these real-life Ugandan (African) LGBT stories to a wider Western audience, in a way that was accessible to a layperson knowing the bare minimum re Africa and/or LGBT. This was very much appreciated by me and it is to be highly commended.

Thirdly, this film was about the resilience of the human spirit. All the Ugandan activists and campaigners depicted in the film were living in fear of their lives, having to constantly move around to ensure they were safe, and were facing relentless persecution and death threats. Yet they continued being "out and proud" and doing their work because they believed in what they were doing and knew that their work was helping and supporting other LGBT people in Uganda. That takes a huge amount of strength and courage and it highlights the triumph of the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity.

You can read all about the premiere I attended here (one of my tweets on the film is featured on the blog):

In summary, I would say that this film was both informative and educational, and that it was powerful, moving and emotional. It really packs a punch. Highly recommended.

You can read all about what is happening in Uganda, and the Kill the Gays Bill, here: