This week I talked with filmmaker Tim McCarthy about his new film project, Voices of the Abasiyazzi: Creating Allies ("abasiyazzi" is the Ugandan equivalent of "queer"), which he's producing with Pepe Julian Onziema. The documentary explores the cultural and legal history of queer people in Uganda, up to the "kill the gays" bill, which was inspired by U.S. fundamentalist Christians and is currently pending a vote by the Ugandan parliament. The concept is to film LGBT Ugandans sharing their lives with their clanspeople in their own languages and cultural traditions. McCarthy and Onziema will be spending five weeks, from the end of April through May, traveling around the five regions of Uganda and sampling positive views of Ugandan abasiyazzi through their lives and discussions with local straight allies and traditional healers about their own views on the issue.
Asked if there is a question that he wishes people would ask him about the project, McCarthy stated:
I think people want to know ... why they should be worried about Uganda with all the gay issues that exist in this country. The fact of the matter is that's a false argument. The truth is we need to fight homophobia in every place that it exists. To be very blunt about it, the Ugandan situation exists because of Americans. So it's our obligation to provide them with the tools to solve this themselves, not to go in there and solve it. That's the big difference with our film. The other aspect of our film is we're not going in there with an angry position about how "you're trying to kill us." That's not what is going to create allies in Uganda. What is going to create allies is simply to show them the humanity of their lesbian sisters, gay brothers and their trans partners in their own communities, and talking to them in their own language, not in English, talking with them with their own traditional healers and traditions that existed before Christianity came to Africa.
Tim McCarthy is a gay video historian who, since April 1990, has traveled all seven continents (90 countries so far!) in search of LGBT culture. Some of his archival footage appears in the Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague. He is also an award-winning filmmaker. Pepe Julian Onziema is a Ugandan transgender man who is presently the program director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and was the recipient of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Award. He shot the video of the first Ugandan/East African pride event, where people were arrested.
For more information about Voices of the Abasiyazzi: Creating Allies, click here.
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