The ‘Kuchu” Chronicles: a must see

November 17, 2012

The Economist in its print edition of Nov 10th 2012 carries an interesting review of a new documentary on David Kato (pictured here with caption: “His death was not in vain”

In 2009 David Bahati, a backbench member of Parliament in deeply conservative Uganda, drew up a bill that proposed the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone failing to turn in homosexuals. His proposals have been watered down, but not before prompting a surge in the homophobia and vigilantism that lie at the heart of an affecting new documentary, “Call Me Kuchu”.

When the film begins, a local tabloid newspaper, Rolling Stone, has printed the names and addresses of 100 kuchus (gay and transgender people) under such headlines as “Homo terror! We name and shame top gays in the city”. It is here that the viewer first meets David Kato (pictured), a sweet but resilient activist and Uganda’s first openly gay man. He is suing the newspaper. “If we keep on hiding,” he says, “they will say we’re not here.” Kato is joined by fellow kuchus: Stosh, who endured a “corrective” rape, and Naome, his best friend. Theirs is the human story behind the headlines. Meanwhile, the smarmy newspaper editor is almost unwatchable in his eagerness to harness the growing bigotry.

In exploring how much of this debate has been driven by religious leaders, the film-makers, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, maintain a careful balance: footage of a visiting American evangelical group battling the “homosexual agenda” is interspersed with that of a staunch gay-rights supporter, a controversial Ugandan bishop, Christopher Senyonjo. Ubiquitous billboards quoting the Bible appear alternately ominous and benign. But it is Kato’s brutal murder, a year after the film started being made, that breaks the mood of polite even-handedness. Officially, his death is recorded as a burglary gone wrong. No one really believes that.

“Call Me Kuchu” is too raw and urgent to be called artful film-making. But its message rings loud and clear. Life for gay people in Uganda—as in much of Africa—is not just dangerous; it is deadly.

In the film on Kasha (MEA laureate 2011: there are also moving images of Kasha visiting David’s mother and his grave.

3 Responses to “The ‘Kuchu” Chronicles: a must see”

  1. Debra Papadinoff Says:

    Hi Hans, Have visited the official film site but don’t see any listing for future release in Greece. Do you have any info? Cheers, Debra

    Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2012 15:01:49 +0000 To:

    • Hans Thoolen Says:

      Sorry Debra, I have no further information on this. Can only hope that Stella will include it in the program for the 20143 version of the Chania Human Rights film festival – hand

  2. […] Kato was killed a few weeks after he helped to secure a court injunction against a Ugandan tabloid that had printed the names, photographs and addresses of gay Ugandans, including Kato, with the tagline “Hang them.” [see also: […]

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