July 2012

"Call me Kuchu": Cinema Release and Tour

Stills from Call me Kuchu

CALL ME KUCHU by Katherine Fairfax Wright und Malika Zouhali-Worrall, which received the 'Cinema fairbindet' award as well as the Teddy for Best Documentary at this year's Berlinale opens theatrically in selected cinemas on September 20, 2012. The release will be accompanied by the 'Cinema fairbindet'-Roadshow, starting September 18 in Bonn. The film follows the brave attempts of LGBT activists to defeat a new bill in Uganda which threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato - human rights activist and Uganda’s first openly gay man - and his colleagues work against the clock while combatting vicious persecution in their daily lives. But no one is prepared for the brutal murder that shakes their movement to its core and sends shockwaves around the world.

In an unmarked office at the end of a dirt track, veteran activist David Kato labors to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or "kuchus." But David's formidable task just became much more difficult. A new "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" proposes death for HIV-positive gay men, and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. Inspired by American evangelicals who have christened Uganda ground zero in their war on the "homosexual agenda", the bill awaits debate in Uganda’s Parliament. Meanwhile, local newspapers have begun outing kuchus with vicious fervor under headlines such as: "HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City." David, Uganda’s first openly gay man, is one of the few who dare to publicly protest state-sanctioned homophobia. Working with an idiosyncratic clan of fellow activists, David fights Uganda’s government and tabloids in the courts, on television, and at the United Nations. Because, he insists, "if we keep on hiding, they will say we’re not here."

But one year into filming CALL ME KUCHU and just three weeks after a landmark legal victory, on January 26, 2011, the unthinkable happens: David is brutally murdered in his home. His death sends shockwaves around the world, and leaves Kampala’s kuchus traumatized and seeking answers for a way forward. With unprecedented access, CALL ME KUCHU depicts the last year in the life of a caustic, courageous and brilliant man whose wisdom and achievements were not fully recognized until after his death. While heartbreaking, the documentary traces a narrative that takes the viewer beyond the chronicle of victimization depicted in international news media: it tells the nuanced story of David and Kampala’s kuchus as they work to change their fate, and that of other kuchus across Africa. A story told in his words, David Kato’s final testimony lives on in this film.

Directors’ statement
During our first days in Kampala, Member of Parliament David Bahati told us: "There is no longer a debate in Uganda as to whether homosexuality is right or not – it is not." We were tempted to believe him. State-sanctioned homophobia was gaining momentum across the African continent, with a recent volley of attempts to pass homophobic laws and arrest LGBT people in countries from Senegal to Burundi. But during that first week in Uganda we also met David Kato. Initially, he played something of a fixer, our main liaison with the LGBT , or "kuchu" community. We soon realized, however, that the man known as the "grandfather of the kuchus" was one of the most outspoken and inspired activists in East Africa. The more time we spent documenting his work, the more evident it became that, contrary to the M.P.’s claim, David and his fellow activists were, in fact, generating a public debate in Uganda that was shaking the foundations of the country’s discriminatory status quo and drawing international attention. Uganda, it seemed, had become a frontier in the global battle for LGBT rights. Over the course of two years, we documented the daily lives and courageous work of David and his fellow kuchus. We were there when David appeared on television to call for an end to LGBT persecution, we were there when David won his case against gay-bashing tabloid Rolling Stone, and we were there during David’s rare moments of respite, when he’d kick back, open a beer and tend to his small farm. So David’s brutal murder in January 2011 came as a terrible shock to us both. Nonetheless, we felt compelled to continue filming in order to document the impact of his death on the tight-knit community, as well as the courageous efforts of Kampala’s kuchus to continue his astounding work. In telling this crucial story, we explore the parodox of democracy in a country where a judiciary recognizes the civil rights of individual kuchus, yet the popular vote and daily violence threaten to eradicate those rights altogether. We also examine the nature and consequences of profound religious faith, as expressed both by American and Ugandan evangelical leaders, as well as the LGBT community and its allies. But perhaps most consequential to us both is that this portrait depicts the David Kato we knew, and David Kato as he saw himself - before he was a mythologized activist, or just as he was becoming one.

Katherine Fairfax Wright graduated from Columbia University with a double major in Film Studies and Anthopology. She produced Gabi On The Roof In July, which premiered at Cinequest 2010, and won Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Weaned on a school of vérité filmmakers, Wright has worked closely with Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Nelson Walker III , and Fellipe Barbosa. She associate-produced Perlmutt and Walker’s award-winning documentary Lumo, which aired on P.O.V. and won the 2007 Student Academy Award, as well as Perlmutt’s Les Vulnerables, the closing short at the New York Film Festival 2007. Wright has worked in a producing role on several other films and she is an award-winning photographer. She is a fellow of the 2011 Film Independent Documentary Lab and the 2011 Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant. Malika Zouhali-Worrall works as a print and video journalist. Her work has been published in The Financial Times and at CNN .com. She has reported for CNN .com from India, Uganda, China and the U.S. on politics, technology and LGBT rights. Zouhali-Worrall is a graduate of Cambridge University and holds an MA in International Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). She is also a fellow of both the 2011 Film Independent Documentary Lab and the 2011 Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant.

The film has been certified by the German Board of Film Classification (FSK) as suitable for persons six years or older.

Download pdf file here

Watch the trailer at: www.callmekuchu.com/trailer

The release and tour of the film are supported by the "Cinema fairbindet" award, donated by the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)

The project 'Cinema fairbindet' is organized by the
Deutschen Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

In cooperation with: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland (LSVD), DW-Akademie

Media partner: Queer.de

Land / Year: Uganda/USA 2012, Length: 90 Min., Format: (shot on HDCAM) DCP and Blu-ray, Languages: English and Luganda, Version: Org. with German subtitles / Directors: Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Katherine Fairfax Wright, Camera: Katherine Fairfax Wright, Second Camera: Samuel Benjamin H. Allen-Falconi, Editor: Katherine Fairfax Wright, Music: Jonny Mandabach, Producer: Malika Zouhali-Worrall, with David Kato Kisule, Naome Ruzindana, Stosh Mugisha, Giles Muhame, John "Long Jones" Abdallah Wambere, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Frank Mugisha, Member of Parliament David Bahati, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Onyango John Francis