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April 11, 2013, 12:00 AM | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Uganda is part of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 states in Africa; homosexuality remains illegal in 41 of them. Penalties range from the death sentence in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan to more than 20 years flogging in Malaysia. Uganda is also the number one destination for American missionaries.
“God Loves Uganda,” a documentary by Roger Ross Williams, examines the relationship between Christian missionaries and homophobia in Uganda.
After Williams saw an article on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, or as it is infamously known, "kill the gays bill," he started tracking the issue. He made a research trip to Uganda, and ultimately came to realize that the pastors driving the hatred were trained in American theology.
"Uganda ministers have taken the American message and hiked it up to a fever pitch," said Williams in a Huffington Post article. “Ugandan pastors are like American fundamentalist pastors on steroids."
The film takes a candid look at the American evangelical movement in Uganda, where American missionaries have been credited with good works—creating schools and hospitals—as well as promoting religious bigotry.
“I learned that American evangelicals had influence on the country for the last 30 years,” said Williams in a “Meet the Artists” interview at the Sundance Film Festival, where his film debuted this past January.
And, according to Williams, Uganda is now one of the most Christian nations on the planet.
In the film, Williams follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt the task of eliminating “sexual sin” and converting Ugandans to fundamentalist Christianity. The “kill the gays bill” was popular in the conservative African nation, but condemned elsewhere. Several countries, including the U.S., vowed to pull aid if the bill was passed. It was shelved for a while, but then revived late last year.
“I wanted to start a religious dialogue,” says Williams about his film. Williams also directed and produced “Music by Prudence,” winner of the 2010 Academy Award for documentary short subject. He is the first African American to win an Oscar for directing and producing a film.
--Anne M. DiTeodoro
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