2012, Movies

Call Me Kuchu (2012, Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall)

This is an absolutely devastating documentary about the situation for LGBTQ people in Uganda and the fight to make homosexuality legal again (as it wasn’t illegal until 1984 for me and 2000 for women).

SPOILERS (though that’s obviously a relatively silly thing to say for a documentary about something you can just google)

It is a pretty standard documentary of the kind in which a crew embeds itself with a group of people to tell their story. Stylistically, it’s certainly not much different than your average 21st century “cinenma verite” collage of people living their lives and experiencing events interspersed with a few more conventional talking head interviews. Like so many documentaries of this style, the thing that distinguishes it from other documentaries of its type is what it’s about; namely what happens to the man most featured in the film.

He’s murdered, and his murder occurs during the filmmaking. (Fortunately it does not happen on camera.) The murder itself, and the picketing by religious groups of his funeral, take what is essentially a human rights/legal battle to new levels of immediacy and emotional impact for the viewer. Learning of his murder is one thing – that alone is pretty devastating given his central role in the film, his bravery in being an openly gay man in Uganda, and what appears to be a increasingly successful battle for LGBTQ rights – but the picketing of the funeral is the kind of thing that just makes me so mad and so sad at the same time. (How people who call themselves Christians can picket funerals, I’ll never know.)

The one serious problem I have is that it feels like the colonial legacy of the UK, and the influence of American evangelicals which helped cause this situation, are barely addressed, and then only by a talking head.

If you can handle it, this is a good way to experience the struggles that minorities go through in countries which do not tolerate or do not wish to tolerate their experience. It’s certainly not truly great film, but it’s devastating and the kind of experience that transports us from our lives of privilege to see that there are parts of the world where a lot of work needs to be done.


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