Who? A chance encounter at the birthday party of a mutual friend brought Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall together, two documentary filmmakers on the hunt for an intriguing and original story. When, in October 2009, news came from Kampala that an Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been tabled, with edicts including the death penalty for “compromised” homosexuals, namely those with HIV, they realized they had found their story, and headed to Uganda to investigate further. There they met activist and gay rights crusader David Kato, who, having dubbed himself “the first ‘Out’ gay Ugandan,” was working with fellow activists to extend the freedom, rights and safety of the LGBT community.
What? Call Me Kuchu, shot over three separate trips to Uganda, follows Kato and his fellow protesters in their extraordinary fight against a culture and political structure that has labeled them despicable and inherently wrong. It is a story of ingrained intolerance and passionate faith, tracing the progress of the activists as they manage to get the bill shelved, and then submitting a sucker punch to the heart when, two months after the victory, Daniel Kato himself is murdered in his own home. This week, as news comes through that Uganda has put the bill back on the table, indeed committing to pass a new law against homosexuality as a “Christmas gift” to its advocates, Kato’s message is as pertinent and poignant as ever, a guiding light in the battle for equality against ignorance.
"In the face of an entirely intransigent society, the members of Kato’s SMUG [Sexual Minorities Uganda] are provoking debate, winning cases and forcing change."
Why? This is a film of individual characters whose personalities expand under the probing yet subtle gaze of the filmmakers. In a tale that provokes such rage and despair, they manage to keep subjectivity to a minimum, portraying both sides with clarity, allowing individuals to be entirely themselves – for good or ill. Call Me Kuchu – the title taken from the Ugandan slang word for gay – is ostensibly a tragic tale; indeed, in the loss of Kato, the country and the world has lost a brave and passionate activist for LGBT rights, yet ultimately the message is of hope for the future. In the face of an entirely intransigent society, the members of Kato’s SMUG [Sexual Minorities Uganda] are provoking debate, winning cases and forcing change. And in this moving, angry yet clear eyed documentary, their cause is being powerfully disseminated and, vitally, the story of David Kato is becoming known.
Call Me Kuchu is at selected cinemas now. Click here to find your nearest screening.