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article imageReview: 'Call me Kuchu' exposes spiteful persecution in Uganda Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 18, 2013 in Entertainment
'Call me Kuchu' chronicles Ugandan LGBT activists’ work against a bill that makes homosexuality punishable by death, while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives.
The title of this documentary is representative of a very powerful and dangerous statement to make in Uganda. To say one is "kuchu," or gay, is a brave admission because homosexuality is outlawed in the country and soon-to-be punishable by death -- a consequence many feel is appropriate and should be enforced in all cases. Call me Kuchu is the difficult tale of gay and lesbian activists in Uganda fighting for the right to be who they are without having to live in fear of reprisal.
The story begins with a secret anniversary celebration for a gay couple who is celebrating nine years together. Someone explains the party is low-key to avoid drawing attention to the illegal union. But everyone in attendance shares in the joy of their relationship with the hope that one day they will not have to hide.
David Kato is Uganda's first openly gay citizen. A teacher and LGBT activist, he co-headed Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), which was established to protect LGBT Ugandans. One of the key acts documented in the film is a lawsuit David and two others filed against the tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone, which was publishing the names and locations of gay Ugandans and calling for their "legal" execution.
Giles Muhame, managing editor of Rolling Stone, and Pastor Male are the main voices of the anti-LGBT movement in the film. They, and those who join them in public protest, are so passionate about their hate it's often upsetting to watch. Their appearance at the funeral of a murdered gay activist is reminiscent of the distasteful antics of the Westboro Baptist Church in the U.S. that attends soldiers' funerals to spew their hate at the grief-stricken. When the homicide receives international attention, Muhame comments that people must realize "human rights are not gay rights."
Filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall attempt to show what it's like to be gay in Uganda by interviewing David and his friends, who are candid about their hopes, fears and experiences, which in several cases include palpable death threats. By letting the religious fanatics speak for themselves, there is a manufactured sense of balance in the narrative that allows viewers to judge them based on the words they speak rather than hearsay.
The film is well-structured and tells a compelling story of wins and losses in the fight for equality in Uganda. It makes a distinct impression by keeping the narrative simple and making it easy for the audience to connect with the subjects while drawing attention to a serious issue of "human" rights. In light of the anti-gay legislation making headlines in Russia, this tale is even more important to tell.
Directors: Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall
More about Call me Kuchu, david kato, Uganda, Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika ZouhaliWorrall
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