SUNDANCE: Directors Tease 'Dirty Wars,' 'Fire In The Blood,' 'God Loves Uganda,' 'A Teacher,' 'Narco Cultura'
God Loves Uganda by Roger Ross Williams [U.S. Documentary Competition]
A battle rages in East Africa, where crosses replace guns and shouts of prayer roar louder than missiles. American evangelical Christians have chosen Uganda, with Africa’s youngest and most vulnerable population, as their ground zero in a battle for the soul of a continent. American missionaries and religious leaders are working with African pastors in a radical campaign to eradicate sin through the most extreme measures. The stakes are nothing less than life and death.
Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams exposes the missionary movement in Uganda as an outgrowth of Africa’s colonialist past and a twenty-first century crusade to recreate a continent of people in the image and likeness of America’s most extreme fundamentalists. Williams captures vérité footage so shocking that viewers may be squirming in their seats. Masterfully crafted and astonishingly provocative, God Loves Uganda may be the most terrifying film of the year. [Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]
Responses by Roger Ross Williams
The God Loves Uganda quick pitch:
God Loves Uganda is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.
…and why it's worth seeing at Sundance and beyond:
David Courier the senior programmer at Sundance called it “astonishingly provocative” and said that it may be “the most terrifying film of the year.” If that does not get you to the theater then I don’t know what will. I believe that documentaries should enlighten and provoke. I hope God Loves Uganda does just that.
Challenges and how it all came together:
I sat on the other side of the camera many times and listened to homophobic Ugandan and American pastors tell me how evil and sick gay people are. Many said they had never really met a homosexual. Little did they know that one was right in front of their nose. It’s not easy to hear someone say such hateful and ignorant things about you and try not to react but I was there to document not to react.
While shooting in Uganda in 2011, the conservative evangelical pastors I was filming -- the most ardent supporters of the country's now famous Anti-Homosexuality Bill -- discovered that I myself am gay. One began circulating emails suggesting that I be killed. I left the country immediately, and hoped I'd never have to go back.
Cut to a year later. I'm with my editors at the Sundance Documentary Edit lab and it is becoming abundantly clear that we needed more footage from Uganda. We needed to spend more time there to do justice to this very complicated, and very important story. And the only way to get it right meant I had to go back. Either I sacrificed, or the story would have to. And so I went. I spent three terrifying, thrilling weeks in Uganda, knowing full well that this would be the last time I was in a country I've been filming for the past three years. And I'm happy to say that without the footage we captured on that last trip, "God Loves Uganda" probably wouldn't be premiering at Sundance.