Call Me Kuchu

Stonewall Uprising

Once again, Happy Pride Month! Last week we featured a list of the 10 Best Documentary Portraits of LGBT Culture, films that celebrate the lives and loves of their diverse subjects. Today’s list is entitled “The Best Documentaries About LGBT History.” What’s the difference? The distinction is, in a word, politics. Obviously when dealing with something like LGBT civil rights, culture and politics are often very closely connected. Yet the following 10 films are more consciously political, narratives of the struggle for freedom and equality over the course of history. It might be a misnomer to call all of them “activist” documentaries, and the “issue film” moniker seems reductive. Therefore, we’ll call them history films, built from a century-long struggle against discrimination. They feature the earliest days of the Gay Liberation movement in the United States, the fight to respond to the AIDS epidemic, and the international scope of the pursuit LGBT civil rights around the world today. 10. Fig Trees (2009) Fig Trees is an experimental, musical portrait of the work of two AIDS activists. Zackie Achmat works with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, Tim McCaskell with AIDS Action Now! in Canada. The film has a broad, international scope from the very beginning. Yet director John Greyson pushes the boundaries even further, placing his work in dialogue with Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson‘s opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The complexity of its images deepen the power of its message, enriching rather than confusing. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Documentaries come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but one thing the vast majority of them have in common is that they’re usually telling a story about something that has happened in the past. They could be looking back centuries, decades or years, but more often than not they’re exploring events that have already come to pass. Call Me Kuchu is a less common example of a film that explores an ongoing story by following people and events as they unfold, and the result is an at times harrowing, heartbreaking and hopeful look at the best and worst humanity has to offer. While the subject of gay rights divides the United States for the most part evenly and peaceably, other countries vary wildly. Some are more accepting, and some are far more restrictive. Uganda belongs in the latter camp with 95% of Ugandans aligning themselves directly against homosexuality. Gay sex is already illegal and punishable by time in prison, but a newly proposed law would make repeat offenses punishable by death. The film follows David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay man, as he and other activists fight to stop the law from passing. It quickly and quite literally becomes a fight for their very lives.

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Don’t call it a skater film. And definitely don’t dismiss it for being a documentary. Only the Young is simply an extraordinary real-life teen movie, one I’ve previously compared favorably to the fiction works of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. It’s like Pretty in Pink and Say Anything mashed together but true and even more honest and heartwarming and beautifully shot. The film follows best friends Garrison and Kevin, who are skateboarders and evangelical Christians and punk fans and, most importantly, just teenage boys. We also meet Skye, a girl who Garrison dates then breaks up but stays close friends with. She’s dealing with looming foreclosure on her home, while the guys explore abandoned houses and mini-golf courses, all of this making for a timely story of youth amidst the depressing economic landscape of America in recent years. But it’s also a timely story that anyone who is or once was a kid can genuinely relate to. Only the Young, which opens in New York City this Friday, is the debut feature of Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, whose own proximity to their teenage years (they were in their early twenties while filming) benefited their film’s ability to capture such a candid, casual record of a trio at certain uncontrollable crossroads of life. It’s a sweet film, one I fell in love with and will name as one of the best of 2012, and not just for documentary. I chatted with the two directors earlier this week about the making […]

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In Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worral‘s stirring Call Me Kuchu, we meet soft-spoken activist David Kato, a former teacher fighting for something very dear to his heart – the repeal of Uganda’s stunningly homophobic laws and the blocking of their “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” which proposed no less than death for HIV-positive gay men, and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. While the simplest of Google searches for information on the film will likely turn up news on some of its most heartbreaking narrative twists and turns, the film is better experienced fresh. However, this trailer for Call Me Kuchu effectively telegraphs the aims and spirit of the film without spoiling some of its more wrenching emotional moments. Check out the film’s trailer after the break, along with screening information for the film, which will be having its U.S. Premiere at LAFF this week.

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