Director: Mwizalero Nyirenda
Malawi / 2013 / 30 min
Umunthu is a first person documentary about the controversy surrounding homosexuality in Malawi. The film follows the journey of three young Malawians, each of whom has opposing views on gay rights, which are a politicized and divisive issue in Malawi. In late December 2009, two men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were arrested for holding a traditional engagement party. The arrest heightened debate both at home and abroad. On May 18th 2010, they were sentenced to fourteen years in prison. The conviction was based on section 153 and 150 of the penal code, which was drafted in 1930 when Malawi was under British colonial rule. On May 29th 2010, Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika pardoned the two, due to international pressure, even though he has repeatedly condemned homosexuality. The late Mutharika became very vocal against gay rights, which soured his relationship with most donor countries. In 2012 the President died, and in his place came the current President Joyce Banda. One of President Banda’s first acts was to suggest the revision of the law that criminalizes homosexuality, but since then she has been increasingly vague, due to severe criticism from the opposition and the public. Against this background, Umunthu was filmed in 2012, with the aim of triggering public discourse on the issue of gay rights. Umunthu is a Bantu philosophical concept that refers to the interconnectedness of all human beings. Umunthu is often defined in the phrase: I am because you are. The film uses the concept of Umunthu to unpack the controversy and politics surrounding gay rights in Malawi, and to begin to shape an African response to this issue.