What do you hope people take from it?
"Call Me Kuchu" tells the
story of the last year in the life of David Kato, Uganda’s first openly
gay man, up until his brutal murder in early 2011. We followed David
over the course of a year as he worked to combat both an
Anti-Homosexuality Bill that proposed a death penalty for gay men, and a
gay-bashing tabloid newspaper that was outing members of the LGBT
community with vicious fervor.
Of course, David’s brutal murder changed our motivations for working on
the film to some extent. While we had always been keen to get the story
of Kampala’s kuchus out into the world, that sentiment became far more
urgent and personal when David died. We had essentially documented the
entire last year of his life, and since his life was cut short, we had
been filming during a time when he was at the pinnacle of his activism,
when his philosophies and oration were most concrete and
well-formulated, and when his voice and understanding of the complexity
of the scenario was strongest. Therefore, both of us felt the
responsibility to honor his life by making the best film we could, and
ensuring that it has as broad of a reach as possible.
Katherine Fairfax Wright:
Since his murder, David has
been mythologized as a courageous and passionate human rights activist
-- which is exactly what he was. However, over the time that we spent
filming with him, we also got to know a man who was charismatic yet
vulnerable, sharp witted, and often afraid to sleep alone. As is true
of the heroes of any movement, some of these character and situational
subtleties have been overshadowed by the broad strokes of his
accomplishments. Our hope is that "Call Me Kuchu," as a long-format
character study, will help supplement the canonized David Kato, and
ensure that people understand that he was a normal man who went to
astounding lengths to liberate Uganda’s LGBT community.
We also hope our audiences will take away a fresh understanding of
Kampala’s kuchus and what they’ve achieved as a community. The
Anti-Homosexuality Bill has received plenty of coverage from the
international news media, however, in most cases the dominant narrative
is that of victimization. While the LGBT community certainly suffers
under Uganda’s harsh state-sanctioned homophobia, many of the kuchus we
met were not only victims. David and his fellow activists worked hard to
change their own fate through every means possible: the Ugandan courts,
the United Nations, the international news media. There is a reason
why everyone is talking about this issue, and it’s because the kuchus
have worked relentlessly to push their movement forward. As a result,
"Call Me Kuchu" is a nuanced story of empowerment as much as of
The access you got for the film is quite remarkable? How did you manage that?
As we said, David was among
the first people we were in contact with when we started researching the
film in 2009, and it was he who introduced us to the kuchu community, a
gesture that proved to be a crucial step towards gaining the
community’s trust. From there, we took careful measures to approach
everyone respectfully, and explained exactly what we were trying to do.
We also tried to make clear to them that we wanted to document their
stories well beyond the sound bites they were accustomed to providing to
journalists. We really had to convince them we were in it for the long
run, that we wanted to be around for hours on end as they moved house,
had meetings, watched TV, ate dinner, etc. There were definitely people
who chose not to be filmed, and we respected their wishes of course.
But those who decided to let us into their lives did so because they
wanted to be involved in a project that would get their stories out, and
we were surprised at the intimacy that engendered. In many cases, it
seemed that those members of the LGBT community were looking for an
outlet through which to share their individual experiences.
What were some other challenges? This must have been an emotionally stirring process, to say the least.
Katherine Fairfax Wright:
Most definitely, and by far
the hardest moments for us were in the weeks immediately after David
was killed. One of the most difficult moments to film came when we
visited David’s mother with Naome, David’s close friend and fellow
activist, and Bishop Senyonjo, a retired bishop and staunch supporter of
the LGBT community. We had spent time with David’s mother before so she
was comfortable with us filming, but it was nonetheless a very tough
experience. The pain of her loss was so raw, and our memories of David
so fresh, that we were both sobbing as we tried to operate the cameras
and sound equipment. It was moments like these that forced us more than
ever to ask ourselves what exactly we wanted to achieve with the film
and how we should go about it.
For more information on how to see "Call Me Kuchu," click here