Director, Producer & Screenwriter Roger Ross Williams is no stranger to Africa. He won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for his film, Music by Prudence, about a young Zimbabwean singer-songwriter born severely disabled, overcoming discrimination and poverty, and accompanied by other physically challenged band members. In God Loves Uganda, a 2013 Sundance selected film, Williams invites controversial dialogue surrounding the impact of the evangelical movement in Uganda. Religious colonialism, conversion and contradiction are central themes throughout the film. Where foreign missionaries have been credited with economic development initiatives such as building orphanages, churches, universities, and hospitals, the interviews and hidden camera footage in the film suggest an infestation of oppression and intolerance in the African culture. Where the American Christian Right funded abstinence only and sexual purity campaigns, the film amplifies that Ugandan HIV/AIDs rates have drastically increased.
After the film’s release, the Ugandan government enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act (aka Anti-gay bill) in 2014, making homosexuality subject to the death penalty or imprisonment. Consequentially, God Loves Uganda is a relevant depiction of religious bigotry manifesting through hate and terrorism toward the LGBT community. Despite the dark political drama, Derek Wiesehahn, Director of Photography, fascinates the audience with the marvelous beauty of Uganda.
The film’s colorful cast of characters include activists, preachers, politicians and missionaries of varied backgrounds. Lou Engle, an American charismatic evangelist associated with the Christian Right, is seen leading prayer vigils against sexual immorality. Rev. JoAnna Watson, a missionary affiliated with the Missouri headquartered International House of Prayer (IHOP), mentors and trains young Ugandans for ministry. Rev. Watson provides personal testimony of her deliverance from a past of sexual brokenness. Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Ph.D. trained religion and sexuality researcher and former Anglican priest, describes the violent sentiment that forced him to flee Uganda and preserve his safety.
Openly gay, Williams commented to the press that he could not screen his film in Uganda because such an action would be considered ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in violation of a provision of the Anti-gay bill. Prior to the passage of the Anti-gay bill, Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa is shown in God Loves Uganda, denouncing scenes from a gay pornographic film exhibited during a church service in furtherance of his quest to “kick sodomy out of Uganda”. The opulence of Pastor Robert Kayanja, one of Uganda’s wealthiest individuals, is depicted in an eyebrow raising manner.
Presented by First Run Features in eighty-three (83) minutes, God Loves Uganda, is a compelling perspective of human tyranny.