Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brandon Isaacson on God Loves Uganda (re-post from

Originally appeared on, 10/11/2013. 

God Loves Uganda is a traditional, “teach you about a political situation” documentary. It opens with the following quote:

“I love Uganda, it’s a very loving country, caring country, but something frightening is happening that has potential to destroy Uganda. And it is coming from the outside.”

This narration is actually over images of nature and playing children. My initial reaction was, “uh oh,” am I running into another disappointing lecture, with condescending bias and little hope to change anyone's mind (like recent film Inequality for All)? The answer is no, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams has created a very good film. God Loves Uganda has a perspective, but it’s measured and fair in its representation.

The film is about the American evangelical campaign to bring the Christian Right’s values to Africa, and especially Uganda. Dr. Scott Lively leads this campaign. To give you an idea of what kind of person we’re dealing with, I’d guess that far right American conservatives would think Dr. Lively is too far right. He actually says in a clip in the documentary that the homosexuals were behind the Holocaust. Seriously.

He’s the major force behind the anti-gay legislation in Uganda, which suggests the death penalty for repeat offenses of homosexuality. Now you know what level of intolerance and lack of compassion we’re dealing with.

The film dissects different views of this issue, looking at the involvement of American evangelical leaders in Uganda (in the form of leaders and common missionaries), an exiled African studying the issue from Boston, an LGBT activist in Uganda who won the 2012 Clinton Global Citizen Award, and an anti-gay Ugandan pastor.

The film quietly but effectively exposes you to these American and Ugandan leaders as well as those who follow them. While scary and sad to witness people succeeding at preaching hateful ideas to Ugandans, such an occurrence is important to be aware of. I greatly appreciate that Roger Ross Williams doesn’t tell me what to think about the various scenes portrayed, though he doesn’t have to -- the bone-chilling reality is clear.

God Loves Uganda premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Grade: A-

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