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Review: Call Me Kuchu

— by BEV QUESTAD —

Religion, culture and politics menacingly collide in this documentary over the life of a proposed political bill in Uganda and the life of David Kato. In what turns out to be a more dangerous culture of vigilantes and extremists than they had bargained for, filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall investigate Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, known internationally as “The Kill the Gays Bill.”

In a continent riddled with so many crises related to disease, hunger, potable water, unemployment, political corruption, civil war, an expanding Sahara Desert, global warming and genocide, why waste time over gender orientation?

The Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill originally required life imprisonment for gay people, and execution for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.” The latter term refers to gays who are repeat offenders. Hillary Clinton and representatives from countries around the world have contacted Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, protested the bill, and threatened to cut off aid if it passed.

In reaction to western pressure and outcry, a new bill, not covered in this film, was introduced recently which retracted the death penalty and reduced imprisonment to 2-7 years. That must satisfy everybody …

Showcased as the final film in the 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, “Call Me Kuchu,” personalizes the battle for inclusive human rights by following the first openly gay man in Uganda, David Kato. He lives in a home where he grows vegetables and shares them with his neighbors. He actively and bravely fights the Ugandan Kill Bill through hiring legal representation, becoming involved with the UN and suing the newspaper publishing exhortations to kill gays. But what is the cost?

In ironic footage Ugandan citizens are filmed attending mass anti-gay rallies, but guess who is a major force behind them? The most chilling scenes show American proselytes, extremists shrouded in antithetical religious doctrine, exclaiming that Uganda is Ground Zero for morality. They preach that America has lost her way and it is up to Uganda to set the ethical path for the world to follow.

Okay, the US can be criticized for founding the nuclear club, perpetrating wars, advancing corporate greed and contributing to global warming – all of which have the potential for some form of apocalypse – but when did gender orientation become the focal point for moral world leadership?

An inspiration in the film, standing tall and brave amidst his sudden unemployment, poverty, beating heat and human challenge is a short little pastor. Ex-communicated from his own denomination for ministering to all people, he befriends David Kato and pastors a church that advertizes universal acceptance. He recites the gospel of Paul twice in this film — least we miss it:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”
(Galatians 3:28; ESV).

Then a bomb goes off — first credited to terrorists. Something sinister, reminiscent of the rising Nazi movement, develops. Ugandan newspapers suggest gays are responsible for the terrorist attack. The scapegoating begins as other calamities befalling Uganda are suddenly suspected as gay conspiracies.

One of the greatest things about “Kuchu” being the choice for the finale to the HRWFF, is that it brings home the notion of collective responsibility in an imperfect world as well as the proof that a few people, despite tragedy, can be strengthened and make a difference.

Katherine Fairfax Wright, one of the filmmakers, has explained that the purpose of the film is to show how hard David Kato and his fellow activists have worked in Ugandan courts, the United Nations, and the international news media to champion universal human rights. She notes that “Call Me Kuchu” is not just a story of persecution, but “a nuanced story of empowerment” as well.



The 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Center Walter Reade Theater
New York Closing Night Film and Reception
with Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Filmmakers
and Longjones Wambere, Film Subject.
Moderated by Boris O. Dittrich, Advocacy Director,
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Program, Human Rights Watch.


FILM CREDITS

Film Website: http://callmekuchu.com/
Directors: Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Editing and Cinematography: Katherine Fairfax Wright
Producers: Jeffrey Blitz and Malika Zouhali-Worrall
6 Awards including Berlin Film Fest Best doc, Hot Docs Best International Feature, Toronto GLBT Film Fest Best Doc Audience Award,
Language: English
Country: USA and Uganda

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  1. Bev Questad #
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    ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY ‘CALL ME KUCHU’ RELEASED ON DVD & BLU-RAY; RATED ONE OF THE BEST DOCUMENTARIES OF 2013‏

    RATED ONE OF THE BEST DOCUMENTARIES OF 2013.

    CALL ME KUCHU has won nearly two dozen awards.



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