The consequences of being publically outed as a homosexual in Uganda have become the subject of an audacious film due out in the coming months.
Aptly titled Outed, the feature film is inspired by real life incidents following the controversial publication of names and photographs of alleged gay people by two leading tabloids in 2011 and 2014.
On both occasions, the publications attracted worldwide condemnation and were blamed for inciting violent attacks against the victims.
Now, a group of young filmmakers have taken the bold step to relive these traumas in a film that is already being praised as a landmark effort towards the fight for LGBT rights in the notoriously homophobic country.
“I started doing research for this film in 2011 but didn’t get the courage to bring it to life until last year when one of my gay friends was brutally murdered by a mob after he was outed by one of the tabloids,” the film’s director, Hassan Kamoga alias Miracle, told this blog in an exclusive interview last week.
The 28-year-old filmmaker who is reluctant to disclose his own sexuality said that the mob falsely accused his friend of stealing a boda boda to justify their barbarity.
Kamoga thus decided to centre his film on a fictional character, Vida, a young secretly homosexual man enjoying a successful career in advertising.
After his personal details and sexuality are revealed in the media, Vida’s life turns tragic as he loses his job, gets kicked out of a house he rents and is brutally persecuted by law enforcers.
“We hope this will generate some fresh intellectual debate about the general status of gay people in Uganda particularly about the role of media in escalating their plight,” Kamoga said of his vision for the low-budget picture that stars 25-year-old actor Jeffery Agaba in the lead role.
A straight man, Agaba leads a ragtag cast of novice actors including activists and other members of the Ugandan LGBTI community in this daunting story that boasts great aesthetics.
The project however suffered major setbacks during production as everyone seemed not to want anything to do with a ‘gay’ film.
Kamoga has told of how he was forced to keep the whole production process desecrate after some people accused him of peddling gay agenda. He also said many actors and partners had to pull out of the project out of fear for their own safety.
But with a self-funded shoestring budget of less than Shs10m and a few willing individuals, Kamoga and team weathered the storm and made the film that has already been hailed by the international community and gay rights activists.
Uganda’s notorious image as a homophobic country has soared in the wake of the anti-gay legislation which was signed into law in February last year only to be revoked six months later following drastic aid cutting by western funders.
Observers say the revocation and an earlier court ban on media outing of gays have slightly dampened down the level of hostility faced by the LGBT community in the country.
Ethics minister Fr Simon Lokodo however remains categorical in his denouncement of LGBT people whom he accuses of recruiting students and breaching the African culture.
According to Frank Mugisha, an internationally renowned Ugandan gay rights activist and lawyer, people of the LGBT orientation still face hostility from the law enforcers.
He is however hopeful that the use of such mediums as film can go a long way in changing attitudes and mindsets.
The plight of Ugandan gays has already inspired a number of films and stage plays, most of which were foreign-backed.
Among the prominent ones is Call Me Kuchu, a semi-biopic on the slain gay rights pioneer David Kato, and God Loves Uganda, a tale of how American evangelists are fueling gay hatred in the country.
Outed has so far had one special screening in Kampala, and its producers are looking at touring gay-themed festivals across the world before the film can eventually have a grand premiere here before end of year.