Call Me Kuchu #pff21

2012 Philadelphia Film Festival, Film Criticism, Film Festivals

Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, is a fascinating and heart-breaking documentary focusing on the first opening gay rights activist in Uganda, David Kato. The government of Uganda proposed a hateful anti-homosexuality bill that could mean death for any known homosexuals and imprisonment for anyone who fails to report known homosexuals. The outspoken Kato puts himself at risk as he pursues legal action in an attempt to protect human rights.

The film seems to climax when Kato and his allies stop a local newspaper from exposing presumed homosexuals only to take a dark turn that exposes the level of hate people are capable of. A finale featuring various nations condemning the actions of Uganda provides a somewhat upbeat ending for an emotionally exhausting viewing experience.

Although Kato is front and center for most of the film, other activists are provided screen time to share their stories, including a survivor of “curative rape” and a social work who hides her orientation from her bigoted supervisor while trying to convince him that homosexuals deserve equal treatment. The supervisor’s conviction that homosexuality is evil is disheartening as is his desire to change the behavior of those who he believes have chosen their orientation.

Call Me Kuchu serves as an indictment of organized religion, in whose name this hatred is fomented. One of the principal players offers the insight that the British had colonized the area and introduced Christianity. Although the British have since taken a more liberal stance on homosexuality, the conservative religion they left behind bolsters a political system that sees homosexuality as such an evil as to justify genocide. Interviews with some of those justifying violence will certainly anger most people and the appearance of preachers from the U.S. who desire to claim Uganda as ground zero in the battle against homosexual resonates with the rhetoric of the religious right making this a timely documentary more locally.

Although difficult to watch, Call Me Kuchu is an important film that exposes how religion can be used as rationalization for a whole spectrum of hateful acts.

Using the festival’s scoring system, I rank Call Me Kuchu as Very Good or 4 out of a possible 5.

Check out all my 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Posts!