Call Me Kuchu: Film Review

Call Me Kuchu Film Still - H 2013

Call Me Kuchu Film Still - H 2013

This alternately harrowing and inspirational doc puts a human face on the fight for gay rights in Uganda.

Katherine Fairfax Wright's and Malika Zouhali-Worrall's documentary details the persecution of the LGBT community in Uganda.

Now receiving a theatrical release after garnering acclaim and awards on the festival circuit, Call Me Kuchu delivers a deeply dispiriting portrait of the systemic persecution of the LGBT community in Uganda, the country that seems to be ground zero for homophobia. That its central figure, activist David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay man, was brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances during the filming only adds to the tragedy on display.

The country’s parliament, seeking to advance laws originally put in place by Great Britain, is still debating a bill threatening to make homosexuality punishable by death, with those citizens failing to report known homosexuals facing three-year prison sentences. Gays are routinely linked to terrorist organizations, and one weekly newspaper, ironically titled Rolling Stone, actually publishes the names and addresses of gay people as a clear incitement to violence.

Filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall present an impassioned account of the efforts of Kato and his fellow activists to combat the bill. We hear from figures on both sides of the debate, with the anti-gay forces making their case with virulent hatred. Meanwhile, there’s a heartbreaking interview with a young woman who was raped by a man whose stated goal was to cure her of her lesbianism.

Although technically rough-hewn, Call Me Kuchu -- the title refers to the term LGBT activists in Uganda have adopted for themselves -- is alternately heartbreaking and inspirational in its depiction of the last year of Kato’s life. Charismatic and displaying a seemingly impermeable amiability, he’s the heart and soul of the film, and viewers who are unaware of his eventual fate, revealed late in the proceedings, will surely experience a traumatic jolt.

Opens: Friday, June 14 (Cinedigm)

Directors: Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Producer: Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Director of photography/editor: Katherine Fairfax Wright

Composer: Jon Mandabach

Not rated, 87 min.