Call Me Kuchu (2013) *****
Dir. Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Dear Christians (substitute your organized religion of preference):
You are NOT Christians if you practice what Jesus Christ (substitute your deity of choice here) did NOT preach. You are little more than ignorant, hate-filled, hate-mongering, mean-spirited and quite possibly insane acolytes of Satan (whom I realize is a fairy-tale creature not unlike equivalent prevaricated notions of God, but SO real to the ignorant that He - or they - might as WELL exist).
Yes, YOUR hatred BREEDS hatred - not only that which affects those you seek to castigate, but those who would be sickened to one day look in a mirror and discover that hatred is etched upon their own faces - towards YOUR ignorance, of course.
There is, however, no room for hatred of ANY kind.
With respect, Greg Klymkiw
Call Me Kuchu tells the story of those brave people in Uganda who exposed themselves to ridicule, scorn, abuse and murder when their government began to draft legislation (not surprisingly with the assistance of AMERICAN Christians) calling for the criminalization of homosexuality as a capital offence. (Lifetime imprisonment for being gay IS. in my humble opinion, tantamount to legalized first-degree murder.)
Though sadness courses through me in an almost debilitating fashion whilst considering the virtues of a work of art that details how low the world has plunged, it would be remiss of me to ignore that many of my aforementioned tears are positive outpourings. Ultimately, it is the heroism of those victims depicted in the film which inspires hope - elation, if you will, that's beyond my wildest dreams.
If it proves anything, Call Me Kuchu proclaims - LOUD AND CLEAR - that there are good people in this world who DO make a difference, even though the vast majority seem irredeemably susceptible to the barrage of hatred perpetrated by power brokers. The film provides both platforms and they are equally chilling and harrowing, but make no mistake - no matter how much of the film seems almost liturgical in its portrayal of suffering, it is a movie about sacrifice of the most positive kind.
Certainly the sacrifice of one of the movie's central figures, a gay man who is the first person in Uganda to come out and publicly announce his homosexuality, is nothing if not Christ-like.
The movie opens with a private, secret celebration of the love between two men - the closest we'll see in Uganda to a "wedding anniversary" between a same-sex couple. There is a cake, there are smiles, there are hugs and kisses - actions of tenderness. These are juxtaposed with images of Christian and political leaders spitting venom of verbal hatred towards homosexuals "in the name of Jesus".
Jesus, however, would weep. His name is clearly being taken in vain.
Some might argue that such an opening is obvious and manipulative and they'd not necessarily be wrong. This doesn't mean it's clumsy and/or dishonest filmmaking - it is, in fact, the very vital sledge hammer of artistic righteousness that many of our best films possess. The hatred that consumes Uganda towards homosexuality is not only uncharitably un-Christian, but it flies in the face of love and in particular the purity of love as preached by Jesus Christ.
The film is effectively structured for both maximum dramatic impact and as a document of a truly despicable period of contemporary history. It introduces us to several important figures during this recent battle and we experience the story as it actually unfolded (and continues to unfold).
We meet activists who put their freedom and lives on the line to defend the basic human rights of homosexuals in a country that - by law - does not regard sexual choice beyond a traditional nuclear family as a human right at all. In fact, homosexuals are not even viewed as human, but chattel gone wrong and in need of extermination.
As the narrative plunges us ever forward, we learn that the Bill proposes life imprisonment for all homosexuals and the death sentence for all acts of "aggressive" homosexuality (defined as constant and non-curative acts of "aberrant" behaviour). It calls for prison sentences to anyone who knowingly does not report homosexuals to the authorities (including parents and other loved ones of said homosexuals) and shockingly, makes AIDS/HIV testing illegal.
The fear-mongering includes the "facts" that family values are under attack, that the "homosexual agenda" is to recruit children to homosexuality and, of course, to rape children. Even the media in Uganda joins the fight against the "Gay Scourge" by outing homosexuals in print. This leads to innocent people - whose names and photographs are published in Uganda's leading newspaper - to be hunted down on the streets and beaten (and outright murdered). Even the clergy joins the bandwagon - prominent American evangelical leaders are invited to speak at rallies to incite even more hatred. The few Ugandan religious leaders who assist homosexuals are defrocked by their churches. One Bishop is stripped of his powers for helping homosexuals in their fight for basic human rights
And yes, rape does occur amongst homosexuals - only they're the recipients of it. The government encourages brave, virile men to rape lesbian women in order to cure them.
The most compelling tale told, though, is that of an activist who is eventually beaten to death by Christians who bash his skull in with hammers.
The last time I checked, Jesus was a carpenter, but I do not believe he hammered anything but wood. In Uganda, as in Russia and America, Jesus does not turn the other cheek. He commits murder.
"Call Me Kuchu" is in theatrical release via Kinosmith.