out of Five
Running time: 88
Well made, vitally important documentary that is by turns shocking, rage-inducing and utterly devastating.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Call Me Kuchu takes its name from Ugandan slang for ‘gay’ and tells the vitally important story of the struggle for gay rights in Uganda, where there are proposals to make homosexuality a capital crime and bishops openly call for the death penalty. The film centres on a group of gay Ugandan activists and sympathisers, most notably David Kato, Uganda's first openly gay man, who carries on his vital work despite his life being constantly under threat.
Despite their obvious sympathies with Kato and the other LGBT interviewees, Wright and Zouhali-Worrall also give a voice to the opposing viewpoint, allowing religious figures to expand upon their bigotry. They present several interviews with smirking tabloid editor Giles Muhame, who proudly boasts of both consistently outing homosexuals in his paper (thereby inciting mob violence and placing their lives at great risk) and even directly linking homosexuals with a recent terrorist attack by al-Qaeda without a shred of evidence.
Kato is a truly inspirational figure, warm-hearted and level-headed, even in the face of horrific brutality or injustice and the stories related by both Kato and the other activists (notably lesbians Stosh and Naome Ruzindana and sympathetic Bishop Senyonjo) are utterly heartbreaking. Similarly, it is both sickening and depressing to watch religious leaders incite mass hatred, leading to huge anti-gay demonstrations.
The film consists of a combination of talking-head interviewees, fly-on-the-wall footage of the activists going about their work and a number of covertly-shot sequences at public gatherings, court appearances and the like. One highly effective sequence in particular takes place at the funeral of one of the film's characters and it's hugely upsetting to watch, as the service erupts in violence when one bishop takes the opportunity to denounce the deceased.
Like most great issues-based documentaries, Call Me Kuchu is simultaneously informative, inspirational, rage-inducing, shocking and deeply upsetting. In this case, it's utterly appalling that other countries have allowed the various injustices in Uganda to continue unabated and it takes a shocking act in the devastating final third of the film before the likes of the United Nations finally wake up and take action (though there's still a huge amount of work to be done).
This is a well made, vitally important documentary that demands to be seen. Highly recommended.