Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill, which was successfully shelved
last year due to pressure from the international community, has
skulked its way back into the headlines complete with a shiny
re-brand. Now David Bahati and cronies are downplaying the death
penalty in favour of the cuddlier sounding life imprisonment. The
bill has been packaged as a 'Christmas gift' for the people of
Uganda. Those Ugandans who also happen to be gay will be unwrapping
a gilded grenade come Xmas if the bill passes.
'Call me Kuchu', a documentary following gay activists in
Uganda, could not be timelier. Directed by Malika Zouhall-Worrall
and Katherine Fairfax Wright the film follows David Kato, the LGBT
rights activist who was murdered in January after being outed by
Ugandan newspaper 'Rolling Stone'.
This documentary throws into relief just how courageous a
campaigner Kato was. In a city where the judicial system and
government are infested with institutionalised homophobia he
successfully sues the newspaper that defiled him. The bravery and
humour with which Kato and his supporters handle themselves make
the wrongheadedness of those like Rolling Stone editor Giles Muhame
all the harder to stomach. In my screening someone swore aloud when
Muhame proclaimed he had no part in Kato's death. The film offers a
look at both camps and touches on American conservatives like Scott
Lively who have heavily influenced the anti-homosexuality bill.
Lively's shtick is that homosexuality is a western invention, a
learned evil. As the film digs deeper it becomes clear that
homophobia not homosexuality is the export, one that is snowballing
fear across the continent (new laws up for debate in Nigeria bear a
scary resemblance to 'Kill the Gays').
The film is punctuated with newly spewed headlines like 'Homo
generals to blame for terror attacks in Kampala', which would seem
farcical if they weren't so tragic. The frenzied fear mongering -
we hear "homosexuality is not a human right" more than twice -
chillingly recalls Nazi thought lines. The evil ring of
child-converting gays is a persuasive fiction pulling focus off the
country's biting problems of poverty and corruption.
'Call me Kuchu' is a tough and important watch. The scenes where
David is joking around with his mum or the part where he and his
friends stage an impromptu drag contest are a wonderful foil to all
the hate rhetoric. These are glimpses of a minority trying to carve
their own space in a society that rejects them. David Kato never
got to build the 'gay commune' he fantasises about in the film, but
you get the suspicion that he's laid some bricks of steel.
Peter Tatchell, who featured on a panel discussion after the
screening declared that the film speaks of a need to uncover
Uganda's lost gay history. The authors of the anti-homosexuality
bill are desperate for LGBT people to 'unlearn' themselves. There
has to be a will to remember pulling against that drive to forget.
Because surely if humanity's origin is in Africa so too is
Upcoming UK screenings:
Thursday 06 December
Gloucester - Gloucester Guildhall
Monday 10 December
Colchester - University of Essex Students' Union (LTB
10) - Popup Cinema Screening
Thursday 13 December
Monday 25 February
- Riverside Studios