Director Roger Ross Williams Debuts Disturbing “God Loves Uganda” At Sundance


On Friday, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence) debuted his latest documentary, God Loves Uganda, at the Sundance Film Festival. Practically ripped from the headlines, the film examines the connection between fundamentalist Christian missionaries and Uganda’s culture of homophobia, including the nation’s nefarious “Kill the Gays” bill.

Queerty chatted with Williams about the film and the relationship between evangelicals in America and Uganda. “In the well-known trope about Africa, a white man journeys into the heart of darkness and finds the mystery of Africa and its unknowable otherness,” Willams says. “I, a black man, made that journey and found America.”

“God Loves Uganda” director Roger Ross Williams

What inspired you to make God Loves Uganda? Was there a personal connection for you?

I have a strong religious background, and grew up singing in the choir of my family church.  I have always been interested in the power of religion as a force for both good and evil.  My last film [Music by Prudence] took place in Zimbabwe and, while I was shooting there, I was struck by how popular conservative Christianity is in sub-Saharan Africa. After I read about Uganda’s now famous “Kill the Gays” bill, I wanted to explore the religious forces behind it.  I’m not interested in films that preach to the converted— I always wanted to make a film that starts a dialogue within the religious community.

“Ugandan pastors are like American fundamentalist pastors on steroids.”

What kind of impact is American fundamental Christianity having on politics in Uganda?

In Uganda, there is very little distance between Church and State: The President and First Lady are both evangelical Christians, and most of the members of Parliament are as well.  The First Minister of Ethics, Marian Metembe, told me “I am Born Again, if I am serving the church I am serving the state—they cannot be mutually exclusive.”

Imagine if the far-right wing of the Republican Party had that kind of free reign. That is what life is like in Uganda. The nation is under the grip of a fundamentalist Christian movement that controls pretty much all facets of society including government and politics.

Is there a difference in the approach and agenda of American Christians coming to East Africa, and the native ministers and churches?

Uganda has become the Promised Land for Christian fundamentalism and a fertile ground for mining what has become one of Africa’s greatest natural resources—human souls. It’s a major destination for U.S. missionaries.

God Loves Uganda
A scene from “God Loves Uganda”

The American Christians also run countless schools and hospitals there, and have built up an incredible infrastructure since the fall of Idi Amin. Most African churches have sister churches in the U.S. and get major support for orphans and social programs from America. Christian television from the U.S. is very popular, and in many churches they often sing American Christian music. American and Ugandan ministers are deeply intertwined.

What differs is the approach to how they promote Old Testament biblical law: In America, the fundamentalist have lost the culture wars—in Uganda they are winning.  Uganda ministers have taken the American message and hiked it up to a fever pitch. Pastors there throw anti-gay rallies, single mothers are marginalized, and abortion is illegal, even in cases of rape. And it’s all in the name of God.  Ugandan pastors are like American fundamentalist pastors on steroids.



Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #exclusive #festivalseason #godlovesuganda stories and more


  • Billysees

    Here’s the New York Times version of this story —

    It runs for over 8 minutes.

    Director Williams does justice and truth about this subject matter.

    It’s scary to imagine what these misguided supposed-believers are doing.

    It’s a shame that too many in Africa succumb to this stuff.

    African culture seems so backwards.

    But what about South Africa ?

    They appear to be an amazing progressive light compared to their neighbors.

    See these two for your interest —

    1. South Africa Leads the Continent (Slowly) on Gay Rights


    Where there’s much darkness, there is also a bright light.

  • 2eo

    Every American christian who doesn’t speak out against these evils has blood on their hands. Every single one of you. Without exception.


    @Billysees: Are you stupid, or something?. All fucking Christian and Muslim, are murderer. Christianity, and Islam, are cults of murderer! no other cults have killed more human then Christian, and Muslims.

  • Joetx

    @Billysees: Yeah, let’s blame it on “African culture,” even though it is white American evangelicals that exploit the poverty in Africa to sow their own a$$-backwards version of Christianity.

  • Andreusz

    @Billysees: South Africa has gay rights on paper, and to a large extent in the bureaucracy, but I don’t think there’s been much change in attitude in the average citizen. Google ‘Corrective rape South Africa’.

  • Humanedge

    Its a human farming operation. Williams already said it loud and clear “In America, the fundamentalists have lost the culture wars”. They NEED places like impoverished African countries and Russia to run off to.

    You know what the saddest part is? This same brand of religion is what was used to justify the enslavement, genocides, and demonization of countless African people. Fast forward hundreds of years, and in regards to the use of faith, very little has changed.

  • Billysees

    @2eo: 2

    It would hard to “pole” every American christian about what this article is about unless a polling outfit were to undertake such a project. I don’t think they’d do it.

    American christianity (and worldwide christianity for that matter) is a mix of love and hate and indifference.

    Religions are divided from within.

    So…..every single one of you……would not be a very accurate thing to say.

  • Billysees

    @KARUADAM: 3

    It’s not a matter of being stupid, but rather it’s a matter of seeing certain things in “love” and recognizing “darkness”, all at the same time.

    This world and its religions have followers who are doing good things on the one hand and those that are up to no good on the other.

    This article is about the latter.

  • Billysees

    @Joetx: 5

    What you say is true.

    I can’t disagree.

    Your word “a$$-backwards” is typed correctly too.

    The dollar signs play an important role here.

    Director Williams makes an observation, from the NYT’s piece, that these religious groups “do” help out the poor they administer to.

    I have a hard time understanding why they make a big flap about LGBT’s.

    Then I have to “realize once again” that “good” works by some also include “worthless” works by the same people.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Fundamentalism possesses a larger share of bad works than any other religious manifestation.

    Christianity “expressed” is immune from nothing.

  • Billysees

    @Andreusz: 6

    I did.

    I had forgotten about that, as there have been many reports from various media about this subject.

    The “hope” you project though is better than nothing at all —

    “South Africa has gay rights …. to a large extent in the bureaucracy ….”

  • Billysees

    @Humanedge: 7

    Interesting comment.

    Sadly true.

Comments are closed.