GLAAD has been working with the film God Loves Uganda for the past two years. The film highlights the US evangelical roots of Uganda's 'kill the gays' bill and its detrimental impact on LGBT Ugandans. This Friday, October 11, God Loves Uganda will open the theaters around the United States and Canada. The Oscar award willing director, Roger Ross Williams, shared with GLAAD why he made the film, as well as what action he hopes the film inspires.
My father was a religious leader in our community, and I grew up in a Baptist mega-church in the Deep South. When I reached adulthood, it became startlingly clear that for all the belonging and love fostered by my faith, their doors were shut to me as a gay person.
That experience left me with the desire to explore how religion has the dual power both to enrich and destroy. In 2009, when it became clear that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was gaining traction, I journeyed to Africa to understand ‘how’. I glimpsed the white faces all around me – on the plane, in coffee shops, on the streets of Kampala – and I began explore the possibility that the evangelical movement, fueled by missionaries in Uganda, had propelled the bill.
I turned the camera on Evangelical pastors and Ugandan ministers (some of whom are among the wealthiest people in the country) – along with LGBT activists and faith leaders like Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who risk their lives every day to combat the spread of hate.
God Loves Uganda, which documents the Evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s religious right, is the result of 3 years of exploration. The film confirms the hypothesis that Evangelical Americans have played a vital role in the spread of homophobia in countries like Uganda – and, as we’re seeing in recent weeks - in Russia.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and has been on tour around the world for the past 10 months. Our screening tour has taken us from the Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Atlanta to the National Cathedral on International Day Against Homophobia, to Kansas City with International House of Prayer members.
This summer, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation, I took the film back to Africa. Our goal was to ensure the message reached the most pertinent audience.
My stop in Malawi revealed how laws culture imported by Christian missionaries have embedded their way into African society. The Q&A, which was broadcast on Malawi National Radio, involved both religious leaders and members of the LGBTI community, many of whom came ‘out’ in public for the first time. By allowing these two groups to engage with one another, an explosive dialogue and an historic debate ensued. Ultimately, it created a forum where everyone was able to express his or her opinions. The film opened up a space for conversation in Malawi, and I hope the theatrical release will create similar discourses.
We made a video about the conversation we started, which is available HERE.
The film is set to open in theaters across the US and Canada, starting this FRIDAY in New York at the Chelsea Bow Tie. We’re uniting audience members across the country to take a stand against the spread of hate; our outreach campaign, ‘Keep Hate Off the Collection Plate’, attempts to bring more transparency and accountability to the flows of church funding.
We hope we can count on all of you to add your voice to the dialogue we’ve already started. By releasing on National Coming Out Day, we’re hoping that God Loves Uganda can serve as an extreme example of the influence of American fundamental evangelicals overseas, but also provide hope that by uniting our voices, we can put a and end to the hate.
See God Loves Uganda in a theater near you.
Add your name to the 'Keep Hate Off the Collection Plate' campaign and join those calling to stop the flow of money from the US to fund anti-LGBT persecution overseas.