Call me Kuchu
Directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali- Worrall. Featuring David Kato, Stosh Mugisha, Naome Ruzindana 88mins, club, Light House Cinema,
Call Me Kuchu opens with an outdoor anniversary party and a toast to a longstanding Kampala couple: “The reason we are here is to jubilate with them – celebrating their ninth anniversary together. Not in obufumbo (marriage), but together.” It’s a low-key celebration. It has to be.
Kuchu is slang for homosexual in Uganda where being gay carries the risk of a prison sentence. This exemplary, disquieting documentary from first-time filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-
Worrall profiles the African republic’s plucky underground LBGTI community as new legislation proposes the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and a seven-year stretch for anyone who fails to report a suspected homosexual. The gay communitys existence is already precarious in a country where popular tabloid Rolling Stone runs pictures of suspected homosexuals under the heading “Hang them”.
In the opposing camp, we find David Kato, a charismatic human rights campaigner who feeds the poor from his vegetable garden and dreams of a founding a gay village, a haven where his community might serve the less fortunate in safety and peace. As Uganda’s “first openly gay man” it falls to Kato and his brave fellow activists to pursue Rolling Stone and likeminded hate-mongers through the courts.
Their fight is dangerous and unpopular. Bigots speak of upholding traditional Ugandan values in the face of cultural imperialism. More rational commentators note that the current vogue for fire and brimstone is also a western import, one lately inflamed by visiting American fundamentalists with their dire warnings of a “global homosexual agenda”.
Pastors and politicians insist that the “sodomites” and “rapists” are not victimised. A terrible tragedy soon proves them wrong. Against all these horrors, Call Me Kuchu really does “jubilate” with some wonderful, irrepressible people. “Paul said very clearly that in Christ there is no male or female”, insists Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a kindly, determined supporter of the LGBT community and one of the film’s many heroes.
Deceptively sunny tableaux and an upbeat denouement fail to convince us that these people are in any less peril than they were at the start of the two-year shoot. Uganda’s anti-gay front has been widely reported. Wright and Zouhali-Worrall’s chronicle has picked up a Teddy at Berlin and wowed the festival circuit. More than this, its a terrifying wake-up call for anyone with even a passing interest in basic human rights.