Call Me Kuchu
Insightful documentary about the struggle for gay rights in Uganda
Call Me Kuchu is an even-handed documentary tackling the topic of gay rights in Africa. Taking its title from a slang word used with pride to describe the country’s LGBT community, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s film explores Uganda’s attempts to create legislation to make homosexuality punishable by death, and specifically the murder of David Kato, who opposed the bill.
Kato’s death occurs midway through Call Me Kuchu; up until that point, he’s a prominent figure, proclaiming himself as Uganda’s first openly gay man and talking with disarming candour about his own experiences. Kato’s frankness is brave given the acrid political climate of Uganda in 2010; newspaper Rolling Stone seeks to guide public opinion with headlines claiming that terrorist activities are the work of homosexuals, and encouraging readers to out gay people in their communities.
One interviewee points out that the outlawing of homosexuality is a vestige of colonial rule, and remains a factor in Ugandan politics due to Christian homophobia long after being overturned in the UK. Uganda is presented here as a country reliant on foreign aid, and with a growing need to be seen in step with the thinking of international communities, a position which gives some hope to activists like Kato or the redoubtable Naome Ruzindana, who fight a precarious legal battle for their rights.
Ruzindana and her allies describe themselves as ‘empowered’ by the international revulsion of Kato’s death, and Call Me Kuchu works as a potent reminder of the political significance of his death. It will be alarming to many to see how easily hatred is stirred up by local media, but also rewarding to see that Kato’s fight for his own human rights has been ably captured for posterity.
Showing as part of Take One Action Film Festival, Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 5 Oct and as part of Glasgay!, GFT, Glasgow, Tue 23 Oct. On selected release in cinemas from Fri 2 Nov.