It's one of two recent high-profile documentaries on LGBT rights in Uganda - the other being Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, which documents the daily lives of David Kato – the first openly gay Ugandan man - and three fellow “kuchus” (LGBT Ugandans).
I'll also add Wanuri Kahiu's Jambula Tree, a South African-Kenya co-production currently in development, which also puts a spotlight on the treatment of LGBTs in Uganda. Although Kahiu's film is a work of fiction, based on a short story that won the Caine Prize for short stories in 2007.
Call Me Kuchu is now on home video, while we wait for Jambula Tree to be made.
Sandwiched between the two releases (although there are certainly others) is Roger Ross Williams' feature documentary and feature directorial debut God Loves Uganda - a film we've been tracking since its Sundance debut earlier this year (although it's been a much longer journey for Williams).
Variance Films will release the acclaimed film theatrically starting in New York City on October 11, 2013, followed by an expansion to theaters across the US and Canada throughout the fall, and into early 2014.
God Loves Uganda tracks the Ugandan pastors and their American counterparts who spread "God’s word" and evangelical values to impressionable millions in the title country.
The film is inspired by Williams' own roots in the African American Baptist church, as he says he sought to explore a place where religion and African culture intersect, adding further:
"I am interested in the exploration of religion in Africa, with the goals of understanding and healing. I am the son of a pastor, the brother of a pastor and I spent my life growing up singing in the gospel choir of my family church. I want to get to know, and comprehend African cultural views. I want to explore the Western media’s portrayal of Africa. I want to know what it is about the lives of the Ugandan people which inspires such deep faith. I want to make a film possessing complexity and depth."
Williams' last film, the Zimbabwe-set Music by Prudence, won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Short. The award made Williams the first African American to win an Oscar for directing and producing a film, short or feature (trivia!).
“It’s been a three year journey, and I am beyond excited to be teaming with Variance Films to bring God Loves Uganda to the big screen,” said director Roger Ross Williams.
“Even as our LGBTI brothers and sisters rack up hard-fought victories here at home, something scary is happening overseas. I believe there is a direct connection between the far-right elements of the religious community in America and the passage of dangerous anti-gay legislation in places like Uganda and Russia… and I believe Roger’s film expertly connects the dots between the two,” said Dylan Marchetti, president and founder of Variance Films. “I think this is one of the most important films we’ve ever released, and my hope is that God Loves Uganda will not only inspire discussion in the theater lobby, but lead to direct action when people get home.”
This narrative is reminiscent of a period in African history when Europeans, believing themselves superior, used their religion as a way into the minds and hearts of many, leading to a series of grave and disruptive consequences that are still very much of influence on the status quo today.
Zeba Blay saw the film at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and reviewed it for S&A HERE.
God Loves Uganda was produced by Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman. The film is a co-production of Full Credit Productions, Motto Pictures, and the Independent Television Service (ITVS).
Here's your first look at the film via its first release trailer: