The Queer Kampala International Film Festival (QKIFF) is the first queer film festival to be held in Uganda – a country where homosexuality is illegal (as the Ugandan Penal Code states, “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between members of the same sex carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment), underlining the significance of QKIFF and the courage being taken by those who are behind this particular effort to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ communities in the country, via quality cinema.
Kicking off today, December 9, and running until Sunday December 11, the festival is celebrating its inaugural year over these 3 days, drawing crowds from across the region with film premieres, talks with filmmakers and actors, panel discussions and parties that focus squarely on queer-themed films and videos from Uganda and around the world, as well as a 2 day workshop for local filmmakers on producing and distributing LGBT-related works, and how to generate LGBT content that will appeal to the community in East Africa.
Part of QKIFF’s mission is to encourage the professional development of East African queer film and video artists, and to support for their work.
In total 26 films, including nine from continental Africa, will screen over the next 3 days – both scripted and documentaries, covering a variety of topics all telling stories that highlight the lives of LGBTQ men, women and children.
And while QKIFF is a public event, the organizers are making the screening venues available to only a select group of pre-cleared supporters, for the safety of those attending the festival, as well as the artists whose works will be screened.
Last month, Vice News spoke to Kamoga Hassan, the lead organizer of the festival, about what it’s like to be part of a committed core of LGBTQ activists who dare to make their voices heard in one of the world’s riskiest places to be non-hetero, where, in 2014, an “anti-homosexuality” bill that called for the death penalty for gay men under certain circumstances, was almost passed.
Per the Vice News piece, Hassan was essentially disowned by relatives and friends, was evicted, and has faced harassment from family members and strangers – all sadly common occurrences within the Ugandan queer community.
When asked why he’s taking quite a risk in launching this festival, Hassan replied with the following: “Uganda is our country, it’s where we all grew up. I’m queer myself and I have so many gay Ugandan friends; they’re my family. People have different ways of fighting. Some people go on the streets and demonstrate. Some people go to court. But film is my tool, to fight for people’s rights and to educate people about what’s going on in my country. During the Arab Spring, governments fell because of videos that people tweeted and shared on social media, so I believe by using audiovisuals we can change things. I’m actually working on another project [with Montreal filmmaker Karin Hazé], called ’75 Shots,’ where we go to countries that criminalize homosexuality— there are about 75 of them— and empower the locals to tell their own stories on film. One of our main goals is to encourage courageous people, anyone who wants to tell their stories to the world.”
And when asked about his long-term goals for the festival, Hassan’s reply: “We want to break down barriers and build bridges to people who are not part of the gay community; we don’t just want to have a few private screenings. Also, we’ve noticed that we haven’t gotten many Ugandan films. Most of the films that deal with queer themes in Uganda are foreign films, not made by Ugandans. We want to encourage more Ugandans to tell their own stories.”
You can read the full interview with Hassan here.