THE BLOG

Call Me Kuchu: Documentary Review

06/26/2013 03:07 pm ET | Updated Aug 26, 2013

Wednesday's historical decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it's unconstitutional was a major victory for gay rights.

SCOTUS also let stand a lower court ruling overturning California's Prop 8, paving the way for same sex-marriage in that state.

Yet this victory needs to be worldwide, not just in the U.S. There are countries around the world that aren't even close to where we arrived at today. Which is why the documentary "Call Me Kuchu" couldn't me more timely.

Currently playing in select theaters, "Kuchu" is the battle for gay rights in Uganda, and centers around its most vocal activist, David Kato, the country's first openly gay man.

Directed by Los Angeles based filmmaker Katherine Fairfax Wright and New York based Malika Zouhali-Worrall, the film follows Kato, along with other activists, who not only battle daily persecution, but are also working to defeat a new bill being passed that calls for homosexuality to be punishable by death.

The filmmakers wanted to show a First World problem as it exists in a Third World Country. The duo assembled a diverse cast of activists, including Kato, a lesbian who suffered a "corrective" rape at a young age by a boy who saw her kissing another girl and a bishop who was expelled from the Anglican Church of Uganda because he supports the LGBT community among numerous others.

Their stories are courageous and admirable. Despite their personal suffering, they continue to forge ahead, determined to make a difference for the future LGBT community in Uganda.

What is horrifying is how archaic the attitudes towards homosexuality in Uganda really are. The filmmakers speak to an editor of a Ugandan tabloid that routinely outs gays on its front page with headlines such as "Hang Them." Three of the filmmaker's subjects find themselves in the publication as part of a story that lists the country's "Top Homos."

What's also unbelievable is how American evangelists like Scott Lively visit Uganda on a regular basis to encourage discrimination against gays, and praising the government for fighting the homosexual agenda. They even lead workshops that educate Ugandans on the evils of the gay movement.

Kato is the glue the hold the gay community together. The filmmakers capture all sides of this man, a soft spoken person who is eloquent when he speaks of his activism, who is funny and mischievous when he is with his friends, and who late at night by himself is afraid to go to sleep because he fears something may happen to him.

Filmed of the course of a year and a half in 2010 and 2011, Fairfax Wright and Zouhali-Worrall made three extended trips to Africa to follow around their various subjects. They were present at Uganda's High Court as Kato and two other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the tabloid for violating their rights, and the activists meetings at the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Those official business matters are juxtaposed with the group's dinner parties and drag queen contests, as we see them in their homes surrounded by family and friends.

But tragedy occurs off camera when the group is hit with the news that Kato is attacked at his home and bludgeoned with a hammer. He dies on the way to the hospital, his death sparking a worldwide outcry. US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the European Union and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are among those who condemn it.

Obviously this was an unexpected turn of events in the narrative of the documentary as their main subject matter is no longer there. Still, the filmmakers keep going, despite the mayhem and confusion that ensues. Kato's funeral, for example, not only attracts his supporters, but detractors who try to interfere, creating a confrontational event.

"Kuchu" now becomes even more important as it has become the final testimony of a courageous man who laid the foundation of LGBT activism in Uganda, and whose work continues to live on - and inspire others - to this day. It is the story of the man behind the martyr, and reminds us that as we celebrate today's landmark ruling in America, we all must continue to collectively work for gay rights until they are recognized in every country.

Call Me Kuchu is a Cinedigm release. It opened at New York's Quad Cinema on Friday, June 14, and at Los Angeles' Laemmle Music Hall on Friday, June 21. For more information on the film, go to callmekuchu.com.