Call Me Kuchu:A worthy portrayal of the on-going gay rights struggle in Uganda

By Cora Quigley

‘Call me Kuchu’ follows gay activist, David Kato, and his fellow activists as they attempt to fight for their rights in a very homophobic Uganada. Many trials and tribulations await David and those in his position while they endeavour to makes things better, from bringing newspaper – ‘The Rolling Stone’ to court for invading their privacy, to opposing the extreme bill proposed by parliament that would put gays and their families and friends at risk of jail or death.

It is difficult to synopsise the film without getting too ‘spoilerish’, though that seems like rather a crude term to use. If you are anything like me, you will probably be going into this film, for the most part blind to the gay rights situation in Uganda. Of course, I had heard about it in passing, and proceeded to have a brief moment of moral outrage, before going about my daily business. Perhaps you too signed one of those internet petitions expressing your momentary disgust, without fully grasping fully the reality of the situation.  What this documentary is successful in doing is presenting in a most jarring and unflinching manner a horrific reality that myself and those around me are fortunate not to be privy to.

A documentary will inevitably show bias towards one side of a story over the other, whether it be intentional or not.  First time directors, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall do a great job in presenting both sides of the issue, never interjecting but letting those at the centre of the controversy express their views and experiences. The experiences of the LGBT people featured are absolutely heart-breaking. The views of those against homosexuality are maddening. The film does not need to be edited in a certain way to make this appear any differently.  Emotional montages backed by cheesy music have no place when so stark a reality is being addressed. The film also addresses the role colonialism had in all of this. These anti-homosexual laws were initially established in the days of British Colonial Rule. But unlike Britain, where these laws have changed and been liberalised immensely, Uganda is holding on to the old laws for dear life. Now there is different manner of cultural imperialism at work, with preachers from the American religious right visiting often, in order to encourage the general public in their LGBT hate. Unsurprisingly, while these particular Americans are welcomed with open arms, in the meantime the government continue to be critical of the influences of the West when it comes to the advancement of gay rights.

That is not to say the film is all tears and violence. At several instances in the film we are allowed a glimpse into the personal lives of just a small portion of the LGBT community in Uganda.  David is a vibrant, friendly and caring individual who is close to his mother. He hosts many a party for his friends – from drag shows to anniversary celebrations. He never lets the reality of his situation interfere with him living his life the way he would like to. These LGBT activists aren’t just victims, but animated individuals with their own personal hopes and dreams. All of this makes David’s death during the filming of the documentary all the more upsetting. His apparent foreshadowing and fear that something like this would happen to him makes the event of his death unnerving to say the very least.

‘Call Me Kuchu’ does what it can to illustrate the realities of the anti–LGBT climate in Uganda. Of course, it can’t deliver the full story when it’s still an on-going battle. Nevertheless, this gripping and emotional documentary is a must see for those invested in LGBT and human rights.

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