“In Uganda, LGBT people do not hide in their homes, we are struggling despite the difficulties.”
2-03-2017.- If it is difficult to be gay in Uganda and survive, organizing an international gay film festival seems reckless. But this is what the young director did, despite the difficulties. Kamuga Hassan |That last December opened this festival in Kampala. Hassan has now passed by Bilbao where his film ”Melted: The Painful RealityWithin programming Zinegoak, Gaylesbotrans International Film and Performing Arts FestivalWhich awarded him a special prize for this edition. In addition, the Director of Queer Kampala participated in a roundtable in collaboration with Amnesty International to analyze the current situation of the LGBT community in African countries where homosexuality is prohibited by law.
We spoke to him after a long week of events, meetings, and interviews with the media that definitely left him exhausted (he had already passed the Berlin Film Festival, where he participated as a jury), but he quickly gets excited when we start talking about the festival. An event that is defined as A three-day meeting expressed through firsts, talks with artists, discussions, and screening of films that address issues around the LGTB community, Of Ugandan origin or from the rest of Africa and the world (among them a few are Hispanics: “My Brother”, “La Orchidia”, First Date II). Quer Kampala was held for three days in December 2016, and despite enormous difficulties, they managed to gather around 800 people and the organizers will already prepare their next edition in December 2017.
How was the Kampala International Film Festival What is the balance of the first edition?
The idea of holding a festival arose as a response to the deep homophobia that has lived in Uganda for years. We wanted to provide a safe place where we could talk about LGTB community problems, share experiences and stay together. We wanted to explain that homosexuality is not something “non-African”, raise awareness among the population, give correct information about gender identity – in the face of hoaxes that are spreading across the country – and enhance the dignity of the people of LGTB.
The problems we faced were mainly related to the difficulty of mobilizing people because on other occasions, the police had come to blow up acts like this. For this it was necessary to find a safe place. So what we did is firstly create the website, with the information, and there we provided a phone number, but not from Uganda, but a foreigner, so that the police could not track it down. There people can send a message and we, after asking some security questions to avoid potential hackers, send them the location of each event. In addition, there was a team of about 20 volunteers who went to the field to mobilize and inform people who do not have access to social networks.
Your film, Outed: the Painful Reality, is a story that is based on real events. Why did you choose this story?
I wanted to explain what has been going on in Uganda in recent years. The film tells of what happened in the days following February 25, 2014 in Uganda. That day, a local newspaper, Red Pepper Posted names and photos, Along with first-hand information about their whereabouts, from 200 people who have identified them as “the top homosexuals” in the country.
It was also the day after the law criminalizing homosexuality was passed in prison. The result was the persecution, assault and humiliation of those who appeared in the newspaper. One of them was John Alex Cojozy, the young man nicknamed Vida, who had the misfortune of also appearing on the cover, despite the fact that he has never officially declared himself gay. From there, Vida lost her job, her home, and her friends.
How might the media behave this way in Uganda?
The problem with the media is that they take advantage of the prevalent homophobia with the sole aim of selling more. If you publish a newspaper and want to sell more, or be more popular, the easiest thing is to charge homosexuals, publish, or “get” someone out of the closet. Worse yet, they provide their personal data and contact details. They are very unprofessional.
More than “unprofessional”, it is almost criminal.
Yes, in fact, it is almost criminal because they know that by “taking” people out of the closet, they are exposing them to grave danger. Also, this media knows that they have the support of the law, so if you go to court to report it, you get nothing, so practically no one reports about it. [Antes de la ley de 2014, sí hubo algún caso en el que las denuncias sirvieron para algo, pero la situación ha empeorado desde entonces].
What is the status of the LGBT community in Uganda?
The persecution is immense, not only from the authorities, but also through the ostracism we face from our neighbors. I myself have to change my place of residence from time to time. However, the LGTB community is well organized, despite being one of the most complex countries to live in. In Uganda, we are not kept in hiding at home, we risk fighting, and new activists appear every day, despite the difficulties.
There is a very broad discourse linking homosexuality to something imported from colonialism. Where did this idea come from?
The truth is I don’t know. In fact, homosexual relationships do just that It existed before colonialism In Uganda, they were not attacked. In fact, it was British society that caused the criminalization of gays and lesbians. At the same time, several evangelical churches of North American descent are now planted in Uganda, the ones that have started attacking the LGTB community more intensely, thus intimidating the residents and saying outrageous things.
With regard to politics, how do you explain the steadfastness and aggressiveness of legislation in recent years?
What politicians are doing is taking advantage of the rejection that already exists. It is a way to satisfy the demands of any type of population. When people demand economic or social improvements or the population threatens to revolt, the government uses the issue of homosexuality to regain popular support.
What can the international community do to support the LGBT community in Uganda?
The most important thing is to support local communities, human rights defenders and volunteers … In addition, it is good for people to talk about us, and that we have a presence in the international media. Vision can be dangerous, but at the same time it is the only way we can protect ourselves.
As for the festival, we need funds and support to move forward and to be able to celebrate the second edition that we have set next December. So we welcome any help: from sharing on social networks to financial support, which can be done directly through our website.
African Queer Course at Bilbao Zingjuak Festival
Taking advantage of Kamoga Hassan’s presence at the Zinegoak Festival, Gaylesbotrans International Film and Performing Arts Festival, the organizers took the opportunity to carry out various activities related to knowing the reality of LGBT + on the African continent. Among them, the Queer Afrika Course, which featured 7 documentaries with stories from Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, Cape Verde or Kenya in BilbaoArte. In addition, an open meeting was held for all the public in which Hassan Kamuga, Director of Queer Kampala, accompanied by LGBT activist + and Violeta Assiego, Member of Amnesty International, presented their vision of the reality of African gay people.
He explained, “It was a commitment that we must recognize the work, effort and courage of the people who are organizing this cultural and awareness event.” Bao JilinFestival Director. “It is a great honor to receive its director to personally present the award and to honor him well.” The award was awarded on Friday, March 24th, when the aforementioned Hassan film was shown: Melted: The Painful Reality.
“Professional problem solver. Subtly charming bacon buff. Gamer. Avid alcohol nerd. Music trailblazer.”