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Call me Kuchu

Homosexuality is still taboo in many societies throughout the world. One such society is the East-African country of Uganda, which has become renowned for its hostile attitude towards LGBT communities following recent legislative attempts to make homosexual acts punishable by death. Now a new documentary shows us first hand the atrocities that take place on a daily basis.

Call me Kuchu by filmmakers Katherine Fairfax and Malika Zouhali-Worrall follows members of LGBT community (known as ‘Kuchus’) in the Ugandan capital of Kampala as they struggle to survive in a world where their sexuality puts their lives in incredible danger.

The trailer for ‘Call Me Kuchu’ is breathtaking (see below), and back in June 2012, it was this trailer that captivated industry leaders at Channel 4′s BRITDOC Good Pitch event, convincing major donors to contribute funds and assistance to the film’s young creators, Katherine Fairfax and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. Now, less than a year later, the film is about to be released theatrically on 2 November, hopefully to great success, because I believe it is one of the most powerful issue-led documentaries of the year.

The film follows four members of Kampala’s Kuchu community, all of whom have found it extremely challenging to live in a country where they are considered ‘sinners’ by society and ‘criminals’ by the law, where newspapers print the headlines “HOMO TERROR”, and where religious leaders like the
notorious Martin Ssempa have incited hatred and violence against them.

At the centre of this community is a man called David Kato. David is known as the only openly gay man in Uganda, and he is a warrior in the face of his
country’s anti-homosexual hysteria, working tirelessly to try and protect the human rights of his community. Despite the fact that his face has been printed on the front cover of a Kampala tabloid, exposing him to the masses as a “known homo”, he exudes confidence and strength against those who wish to see him destroyed.

David and his friends are fighting against a veritable Goliath in their quest to be treated as equals, and respected as human beings. The levels of media and state propaganda being disseminated against homosexuality in Uganda is shocking, with government representatives stating that ‘gays’ are ‘recruiting’ young people into homosexuality, and newspaper editors suggesting that the July 2010 Kampala bomb attacks were somehow caused by homosexuals.

Yet it is easy to forget that certainly the seed of Uganda’s legislative repression against LGBT communities was first sown by the British Colonial government – a fact that is stated by one of the films’ subjects and one which resonates deeply, highlighting that we must remember our own history when considering the situation for sexual minorities in Uganda today.

Just when you believe that the situation cannot get any more difficult, complex or dangerous for the film’s four subjects, there is a dramatic and devastating turn of events. It is discovered that David has been beaten to death in his own home. At once, this brings new horror and sadness to the lives of his friends and relatives, and to all those watching the film.

The filmmakers present David as a profoundly positive figure. His murder was clearly an overwhelming blow to the LGBT community in Uganda. Yet his death also galvanized his friends and figures from the international community to condemn this act of violence, to speak out against prejudice and
misunderstanding, and to promote the universal human rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference.

‘Call Me Kuchu’ reflects tenderly and sympathetically on the life of David Kato, and on his friends who must now continue the fight to protect sexual minorities in Uganda. However, it is also a film that leaves the audience feeling raw. You cannot help but despair for the irrationality and hatred which can exist within the human spirit. Yet, you can also rejoice in the strength of individuals, and the bravery of the Ugandan LGBT community.

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Emma's passion for documentary film developed whilst studying History and Politics at Warwick University. After interning for the BBC's international documentary strand 'Storyville' she became intent on working in the documentary film-making industry and now works for a London-based independent production company [Spirit Level Film]. Emma is one of the only documentary-lovers around that thinks Errol Morris' films are boring.

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