The critical recognition of the strong impact of the documentary "Call Me Kuchu," which was released on DVD in late September 2013," includes the prize for the best documentary in the Berlin Film Festival and selection as a New York Times Critics' Pick. It also has an almost unprecedented 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which gave "Gone With the Wind" a 96 percent rating.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Kuchu" provides a sense of the quality behind the well-deserved praise.
The definition of "kuchu," which is a highly derogatory slang term for homosexual in Uganda, alone shows the defiance and courage of the openly gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender activists and ordinary folks around whom "Kuchu" centers regarding adopting that term as their own. This is even bolder than early activists in the United States using the pink triangle that the Nazi regime used to identify homosexuals in death camps as a symbol of pride.
The film and the Uganda campaign, which truly is a human rights efforts, primarily focuses on the incredibly righteous (but not self-righteous) openly gay dude David Kato. Kato grew up in Uganda, got out, and returned to fight for the right of him and every other homosexual and bisexual person in Uganda to love and build a life with the person of his or her choosing. He likely is not exaggerating in describing himself as the first openly gay man in Uganda.
Kato's accomplishments include establishing a village that is safe haven for homosexuals, who face intense hatred and physical harm merely based on their sexual orientation. A very festive drag queen contest in that community provides a twist on the title of the Kirstie Alley sitcom "Veronica's Closet."
The intense and scarily extreme anti-homosexual campaign in Uganda that "Kuchu" depicts is a highly disturbing wake-up call to those of us in the U.S. in an era in which "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is a thing of the past and the U.S. Supreme Court has greatly expanded the rights related to same-sex marriage. Another thought that "Kuchu" evokes is that Uganda has more than enough more serious problems to address than who men and women are doing in the privacy of their own homes.
The lesser of two evils that the LGBT community in Uganda is facing in the period that the documentary covers is a story in a newspaper titled Rolling Stone, which has ABSOLUTELY nothing in common with the music magazine, that publishes the pictures and addresses of known homosexuals while advocating the hanging of them and every other homosexual. Needless to say, no one would want his or her picture on the cover of that Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone).
This newspaper article leads to a court case in which Kato and other activists seek to hold the publisher of the newspaper liable for the harm from that story. The fall-out from the publication includes physical attacks and several people having to go into hiding to avoid become a victim of that hatred.
The greater evil is an actual proposed bill before the Uganda parliament that sounds either like a joke or a plot device in a television or film drama. It calls for imprisoning homosexuals and people who fail to turn in homosexuals and death for "aggravated homosexuality." The definition of the capital offense includes repeated homosexual activity, which likely would cover two acts within one session between the sheets.
The scary anti-homosexual climate in Uganda and the broad wording of the law seriously make it seem that it encompasses a teenage boy who is perceived to look at his male classmates in the shower or a woman who has not married by the age of 25.
Another horrible aspect of this is that this law aggressively promotes sex purely for procreation in an area of the world that already has far too many people. An indirectly related funny scene has Kato commenting that condoms that he has received for distribution are too small, but the strawberry-flavored ones amuse him.
The propaganda that fuels the fire related to the proposed legislation includes (seemingly unsubstantiated) reports of widespread homosexual attacks on underage children. Even if those reports are accurate, the stupidity of that argument relates to an obvious course of action being either more strictly enforcing existing laws that protect children from any form of illegal sexual contact or devoting even a fraction of the energy and hatred directed at homosexuality toward a strict law that provides the protection described above.
On a more personal note, this hatred evoked thoughts of an incident that occurred in the late '80s while walking back to the hotel from a Texas Rangers game while attending corporate training in Arlington, Texas. A colleague had placed his arm over my shoulder in a PURELY platonic manner, and I returned the gesture. Within seconds, someone in a passing pickup truck yelled "faggots." My response was to yell "it takes one to know one."
The mood got much darker when the truck immediately slammed on its brakes, and the lights indicating that the vehicle was in reverse came on. It was equally fortunate that there was a field for my group to run across and that the pickup driver chose to not pursue us.
I later learned that one man can place his arm over the shoulder of another man but that that man cannot return the gesture. My friend and I surely would have been jailed in Uganda under the proposed law.
Folks who are familiar with Kato's story already know that it does not end well. This outcome is always sad when someone is putting himself or herself out there for a just cause. In fairness to the Uganda government, it does not advocate the vigilante justice and seems to act responsibly regarding the matter despite the very hateful rhetoric related to the aftermath.
The final word regarding "Kuchu" is that it meets the criteria of a good documentary in that it informs, educates, provokes thought, and seem overall balanced. Worldwide critics are right in giving it positive reviews.
Anyone with questions regarding "Kuchu" is welcome to email me. I can also be reached on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. I will remind folks who do not keep a civil tongue both of the "rubber-glue" rule and that I will keep my eyes open for brake lights on pickup trucks.