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Meet the 2012 LAFF Filmmakers #10: ‘Call Me Kuchu’ Directors Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright

Meet the 2012 LAFF Filmmakers #10: 'Call Me Kuchu' Directors Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright

The two directors behind “Call Me Kuchu” came from different backgrounds, uniting their expertise to create this poignant documentary. Fairfax Wright studied Anthropology and Film in college, and “Call Me Kuchu” is her directoral debut. Zouhali-Worrall worked as a print and video journalist, freelancing for CNN.com and other publications.

“Call Me Kuchu is screening in the documentary competition at this year’s LAFF.

What it’s about: “Call Me Kuchu” tells the story of David Kato – Uganda’s first openly gay man – and his fellow activists as they work to combat vicious persecution in their daily lives.

Zouhali-Worrall says: “The film is an intimate portrait of a courageous and charismatic man determined to bring an end to the discriminatory status quo in his country. In depicting his final year, the film introduces the viewer to the David Kato we knew, and David Kato as he saw himself, before he was so suddenly and tragically killed.”

“The film also sheds light on the stark parallels between the situation for LGBT communities in both Uganda and the United States, illustrating not only the role of American evangelicals in the now notorious Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but also what can transpire in a democracy when fundamental human rights are left up to a popular vote.”

On their biggest challenge in developing or producing the project: “The most challenging moments of this process for us were undoubtedly the weeks immediately after David was killed. In one of the more difficult instances, 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 filming with David’s mother on a prior occasion, so she was comfortable with our presence, 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 immediately found ourselves in tears, quivering as we tried to operate the cameras and sound gear. 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.”

What would you like LAFF audiences to come away with after seeing your film? “We 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, the kuchus we met were not mere victims. David and his fellow activists worked tirelessly 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 of the kuchu community’s relentless drive to propel their movement forward. As a result, CALL ME KUCHU is a nuanced story of empowerment as much as of persecution.”

Zouhali-Worrall’s inspiration for the film: “Too many to list here! But in the year or two before I started working on this film, Marc Singer’s DARK DAYS and Marshall Curry’s STREET FIGHT were especially inspiring.”

Future Projects: “We’re going to have our hands full for a while as we work to bring CALL ME KUCHU to screens large and small around the world, and also to incorporate it into outreach and advocacy work on LGBT rights. We have some exciting festival screenings coming up that have already been announced on our website, http://callmekuchu.com/screenings, and we’ll soon be announcing more.”

Indiewire invited LAFF competition directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival. Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

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