Wednesday, August 28, 2013

KinoSmith Inc. Film Review - Call Me Kuchu

The Ugandan Anti- Homosexuality bill is the central focus of the documentary film by Malika Zouhali Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright. Some of the elements of the bill would make homosexuality punishable by death and if a Ugandan Citizen knew of a homosexual and did not report it to the government they could be subject to 3 years in prison. In other words if your child came out to you your option are:  a) report them to the government where they might be executed or b) not report them a risk a personal three years imprisonment.

The films protagonist is David Kato a native Ugandan farmer who was unsure about his sexual preference until his late twenties.  He was living in South Africa at the time and found acceptance into the country's gay community. He returned to Uganda 6 years later determined to obtain similar rights for LGBT people in Uganda.  Kato became the first openly gay person in Uganda working for SMUG Sexual Minorities Uganda and closely with other activists who keep their status more guarded.

The film starts at a celebration for a 9th anniversary for two community locals in Kampala which is a low key affair due to the current anti-gay climate in the city.  Inter-placed with the gathering are shots of preaches stating that Uganda will say no homosexuality declaring that the behaviour is against gods law and a sin of that nature against god should be punished by death. A haunting melodic instrumental tune plays throughout the opening scene ending with the meaning of Kuchu a synonym of the Queer is here.

Naome Ruzindana who has two children and was married at nineteen tells her story to the directors while comfortably alternating between sitting on and lying on a bed noting that she was never interested in sex with her husband. She described their relationship as more of a friendship. Naome stayed for five years and then left with her kids. Her group the African coalition of Lesbians started in 2004.

Rolling Stone newspaper is introduced into the piece with low slow instrumental tones and shots of the newspapers anti -gay headlines and articles. The editor Giles Muhame is interviewed sitting on a wooden chair and has a habit of laughing un comfortably and inappropriate when he describes his attitude towards gay people, what should be done to them and justifies his newspapers practice of infiltrating gay groups through a technique called disguise, publishing their names and addresses in the paper and declaring that gays are praying on the youth of the country.

The directors shoot most of accounts of the main players in a first person one camera shoot setting.  They tell their stories intermixed with their current activity, cooking, shopping, or in Muhame's case leafing through his newspaper pointing at headlines and pictures.

Stosh tells her story of how her picture was put in the Rolling Stone newspaper and her family turned against her but not till after a male childhood friend forced himself on her to try to show she is not gay. Her friends saw the photo in the newspapers and grabbed stones to throw at her. Naome provided support stating that Stosh knows who she is and has friends that will support her.

News reports are a tools used by the directors.  They show the details of a post world cup attack in Kampala that is at first blamed on terrorist then linked to the LGBT community.

A common shooting element is handled cameras used for walkabouts around town following the activities they walk through the community and markets. The handheld style is also used when we meet the activists at their home or out at strategy meetings.

Activist Long Jones tells his story as he walks through the food market purchasing groceries. A group of activities discuss the terrorist article and how they should respond. They also discuss the need to use and distribute condoms for health reasons.

Pastor Malee opposed to homosexually taking root and luring young people into the lifestyle appears during the court case against Rolling Stone newspaper.

The goal of the court case is to force Rolling Stone to cease their practice of publishing names and addresses of community members which could lead to firings, personal attacks and treats from friends and family members.  During the court scenes in and around the court house the shooting style consists of lots of hand held cameras moving amongst the activities, religious leaders and rolling stone representatives.

Celebrity preachers led by American Lou Engle came to visit in March 2009 whipping up a religious fervour against homosexuals declaring that Uganda is ground zero. On the heels of the Spring Celebrity preacher visits a bill sponsored by M.P. David Bahati in October 2009 attempted to strengthen the countries laws against homosexual activity.  The Anti- Homosexual Bill called for life imprisonment for gay activities, death for aggravated homosexuality, a catch all term for repeat offenders that included a 7 year sentence for aiding and abetting,  3 years for arranging and participating in HIV testing, lastly  potentially 3 years in prison if you know of and do not report a homosexual within 24 hours.  The details of the bill are presented through cuts to and from news medial, television reports and newspaper headlines rolling across the screen.

The international partners put pressure on the Ugandan president to move slow with the bill or risk international backlash. In an eerily foreshadowing of later tragic events David is alone at home with very little light watching the report on a flickering television that is part picture and part snow. Cheering for himself and fellow activities on the screen and jeering the opponents that are part of the report.  The camera then follows David around the farm at night as he moves by flashlight speaking to the residence and barley identifiable workers at his farm to see if they saw the report.

The movement win the court case against the RollingStone newspaper for invasion of privacy inciting violence and discrimination. The case against Rolling stone was successful but the Anti- Homosexual Bill remains a possibility. The post victory celebrations lead to a tragic event hinted at earlier that would have a lasting effect on the movement itself.

Call Me Kuchu is a powerful film that presents it material though several first hand accounts on both sides of the issue.  The directors give the viewer all of the information and leave it up to them to form their opinion on the issues presented. It's a film that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

Call Me Kuchu | Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali- Worrall | USA- Uganda| 2011|  87 Minutes.

KinoSmith  Productions.

Tags: LGBT, Activism, Sexual Rights, Uganda, Kampala, Anti- Homosexual Bill, David Kato, Ugandan Rolling Stone Newspaper,  Religion.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Film Review - Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp makes his long anticipated return to the screen with his second feature Elysium. Sci-Fi fans have waited not so patiently for a follow up to his first feature the visually stunning  and unique District 9.

Blomkamp a graduate of Vancouver Film schools 3D Animation and Visual Effects program has a seamless method of combining special effects and live acting that continues in Elysium. Blomkamp eye for robot construction is unmatched. In 2154 robots are the police on earth, homeland security on Elysium, parole officers and conduct most of the manual labour tasks. They show no favouritism,  cannot be influenced or corrupted.  They follow the law to the letter. If a law or rule changes they follow that new rule regardless if that rule changes the status of someone from a target to a citizen in a matter of moments.

Dystopian earth in the year 2154 is overrun by population, disease and lawlessness. The rich build a space station in the sky and leave taking all of the top technological and scientific achievements with them to a paradise orbiting a 19 minute shuttle ride away above the earth. They have devices that are cross between a tanning bed and a MRI machine that if you have a citizen implant detects your disease then eliminate it within a couple of minutes.  The integration of the construction of the station the lush green fields, beautiful homes, ample lakes and rivers on Elysium are visually stunning.

The story centers around Max (Matt Damon) a former car their who is on parole and working on the line in a plant that makes robots. After an accident in the plant Max takes a job from his old underworld contacts in exchange for a ticket to Elysium to cure the malady he contracted at the plant.  Max is reunited with his childhood soulmate Frey (Alice Braga) who has a daughter in the last stages of leukemia and also requires treatment on Elysium. The job does not go as planned the strike team is intercepted by an earth based team of disavowed agents. Max does get information from the target that turns out to be more important than his sponsors could have expected.

The best part and worst part of the film are interrelated.  All scenes are essential to the plot.  A good example is the sequence that starts with Max confronting a police robot while lining up for a bus.  The confrontation ends with a broken wrist which leads to a reunion with Frey at the hospital, his job being threatened on the line and the decision to take a risk at work that causes his illness and nothing to loose attitude. The fact that the scenes work to move the film along takes something away from character development.  There are no arcs, the cast do not grow from the first time you see them on screen until the last act. This hurts the audience ability to develop a rooting interest for any of the actors  which is essential to making a memorable film that will stick with the viewer.

Visually dazzling in scope depth and detail quickly paced but suffering from a lack of character   advancement Elysium is a film that will appeal to Sci-fi fans that have a love for the ongoing integration between humans and robots in a future society. But if it's a strong story featuring participants that change, grow and fall as the story progresses it's not a film that I can recommend.

**1/2 out of 4.

Elysium | Neill Blomkamp | U.S.A. | 2013 | 109 Minutes.

Tags: Utopia, Dystopia, Los Angeles, Robots, Elite, Masses, Disease, Agents, 1% vs. 99%