God Loves Uganda explores the role of the American evangelical movement in Uganda, where American missionaries have been credited with both creating schools and hospitals and promoting dangerous religious bigotry. The film follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt the radical task of eliminating “sexual sin” and converting Ugandans to fundamentalist Christianity. As an American influenced bill to make homosexuality punishable by death wins widespread support, tension in Uganda mounts and an atmosphere of murderous hatred takes hold. The film reveals the conflicting motives of faith and greed, ecstasy and egotism, among Ugandan ministers, American evangelical leaders and the foot soldiers of a theology that sees Uganda as a test case, ground zero in a battle not for millions, but billions of souls. Through vérité, interviews, and hidden camera footage – and with unprecedented access God Loves Uganda takes viewers inside the evangelical movement in both the US and Uganda. It features Lou Engle, creator of The Call, which brings tens of thousands of believers together to pray against sexual sin. It provides a rare view of the most powerful evangelical minister in Uganda, who lives in a mansion where he’s served by a white-coated chef. It goes into a Ugandan church where a preacher whips a congregation into mass hysteria with anti-gay rhetoric. It records the culture clash between enthusiastic Midwestern missionaries and world weary Ugandans. It features a heartbreaking interview with gay activist David Kato shortly before he was murdered. It tells the moving story of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a minister excommunicated, ostracized and literally spat on for being tolerant and his remarkable campaign for peace and healing in Uganda. Shocking, horrifying, touching and enlightening, God Loves Uganda will make you question what you thought you knew about religion.
ARTICOLO di Francesco Montorsi su blitzquotidiano.it:
“Il film documentario God Loves Uganda («Dio ama l’Uganda») è stato da poco distribuito nelle sale degli Stati Uniti e del Canada, suscitando decise prese di posizione tra i commentatori. Il pluripremiato regista afroamericano Roger Ross Williams ha voluto disegnare l’inquietante ritratto di alcune missioni evangeliche statunitensi che tentano di «evangelizzare» la popolazione ugandese e spingerla verso forme di intolleranza nei confronti degli omosessuali e dell’aborto.
La tesi espressa dall’opera è che la campagna di odio antiomosessuale che sta imperversando da anni nel paese non sia dovuta alla cultura del paese africano ma ad una forma di colonialismo culturale: la propagazione, attraverso i missionari, dei valori della destra religiosa americana.
Negli ultimi anni, la legislazione discriminatoria nei confronti degli omosessuali si è estesa e si è inasprita in diversi paesi dell’Africa subsahariana. La “sodomia” è stata bandita per legge in Zimbabwe dal suo eterno capo di stato Robert Mugabe che ha dichiarato l’omosessualità un prodotto della colonizzazione europea. Negli ultimi anni, leggi omofobe sono state implementate anche in Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria e nella Repubblica Democratica del Congo.
In Uganda, dove la situazione è particolarmente drammatica, un settimanale ha pubblicato nel 2010 un articolo intitolato le «100 foto dei più importanti omosessuali». Nella pubblicazione si trovavano i nomi, gli indirizzi, e le foto di presunti o dichiarati omosessuali ugandesi, incorniciate della scritta «impiccateli». Molti dei denunciati sono stati attaccati fisicamente ; una donna è quasi morta delle conseguenze di un linciaggio. Poco più di un anno dopo, David Kato, attivista ugandese per i diritti LBGT, è stato sorpreso nel sonno nella sua abitazione e ucciso a colpi di martello.
La propaganda omofoba in Uganda è fomentata anche da alcune missioni evangeliche di stampo carismatico, provenienti dagli Stati Uniti. Il regista di «God loves Uganda» ha seguito per mesi alcuni missionari americani del gruppo International House of Prayer di cui il leader Lou Engler è un attivista conosciuto per le sue posizioni contro gli omosessuali e l’aborto.
In uno spezzone del documentario si vede il predicatore americano Scott Lively rivolgersi ad un pubblico di ugandesi e spiegare, in preda al delirio mentale dell’ignoranza, che i gay sono pedofili, che sono stati la causa del nazismo (sic), che controllano le Nazioni Uniti e che intendono venire in Uganda per reclutare i bambini. Ma, dice pure Lively, improvvisamente più fiducioso: «l’Uganda è il primo paese che può fermarli». A patto che il paese implementi politiche che «scoraggino l’omosessualità». Il predicatore d’estrema destra, durante la stessa visita, ha avuto il privilegio di parlare per cinque ore al parlamento del paese. Poco tempo dopo, veniva presentata una proposta di legge per inasprire la legislazione sull’omosessualità.
Almeno due missioni evangeliche implicate in Uganda fanno opera di lobbying e investono considerevoli cifre in «attività anti-aborto e anti-gay». Secondo gli autori del documentario, le attività della destra religiosa americana si stanno sempre più orientando verso l’Africa in seguito alla perdita d’influenza in America. Negli Stati Uniti, l’approvazione recente di diverse leggi ha mostrato una nuova tolleranza nei confronti di temi quali l’aborto, l’omosessualità e il consumo di droghe. Gli estremisti cristiani si stanno dunque rivolgendo verso paesi cristiani dove i loro mezzi materiali e il loro attivismo permettono di esercitare quell’estesa influenza culturale perduta nella madre patria. L’Uganda, composta all’85% di cristiani, è una delle nuove frontiere di questo proselitismo reazionario.”
NOTE DI REGIA:
“I grew up in the black church. My father was a religious leader in the community and my sister is a pastor. I went to church every Sunday and sang in the choir. But for all that the church gave me, for all that it represented belonging, love and community, it also shut its doors to me as a gay person. That experience left me with the lifelong desire to explore the power of religion to transform lives or destroy them. That desire took a new form when I visited Africa to make my film Music by Prudence. I was struck by how intensely religious and socially conservative Africans were. There was literally a church on every corner. People were praying in the fields. It was like the American evangelical Christianity I had known – but magnified by Africa’s intensity.
The more I learned about religion in Africa, the more intrigued I became. It was as if the continent was gripped with religious fervor. And the center of it was Uganda. I began to research; I took my first trip to Uganda. Uganda, I discovered is the number one destination for American missionaries. The American Evangelical movement has been sending missionaries and money, proselytizing its people, and training its pastors for a generation; building schools, manning hospitals, even running programs for training political leaders. Its President and First Lady are evangelical Christians, as are most members of its Parliament and 85% of the population.
I began meeting in Uganda – and in America – some of the missionaries who have helped create Uganda’s evangelical movement. They were often large-hearted. They were passionate and committed. Many of them were kids from America’s heartland. And they were, I began to discover, part of a larger Christian evangelical movement that believed that Biblical law should reign supreme – not just in people’s hearts – but in the halls of government. This movement, fueled by American money and idealism, had produced a noxious flower – Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which made death as one of the penalties for homosexuality.
Committed to the idea that God wanted all forms of “sexual immorality” eliminated from the earth,” it was the reason why Uganda had dismantled its successful AIDS program in favor of an abstinence policy.
I thought about following the activists-brave and admirable men and women-who were fighting against these policies. But I was more curious about the people who, in effect, wanted to kill me. (According to the provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, I could be put to death or imprisoned.) Notably, almost every evangelical I met – American or Ugandan – was polite, agreeable, even charming. Yet I knew that if the bill passed, there would be blood on the streets of Kampala.
What explains that contradiction? What explains the murderous rage and ecstatic transcendence? 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. I, a black man, made that journey and found – America.
Roger Ross Williams
As more and more people in the USA are getting wise to the fearmongering of the Religious Right here and in the western culture, they’ve decided their fertile field is in the Third World specifically Africa. The test case for them seems to be the troubled country of Uganda, known until recently as the place where Idi Amin ruled in the Seventies and hosted the terrorists in Entebbe who hijacked an El Al airliner.
Idi Amin is gone now, but the craziness lives on. And now it is being fueled by our Christian Right who have decided that this is a fertile evangelical field for their kind of religion which includes a mindless fear of gays. Not that it wasn’t there before, but it’s being brought to a high boil.
It is incredibly ironic for a multitude of reasons. First until the missionaries came and told them so, most Africans didn’t realize gay was so evil. Secondly the colonial powers didn’t unlearn their colonies about gays when they left in 50s and 60s. Third those same powers are now one by one allowing lesbians and gays to marry.
In walks the religious right and the bacillus of homophobia is injected in the body politic. The efforts of the right wing evangelicals there have culminated in one of the strictest of sodomy laws, not seen for two centuries. Life in prison for a first offense of sodomy, death for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality.
The Ugandan Parliament has been toying with this bill for over a year now. Other countries in Africa like Ethiopia and Nigeria have gone ahead and have passed such legislation.
But the reason that Uganda has gotten such attention is its best flirting with terrorism and because of the fact that gay activist David Kato was murdered two years ago. Kato became the face for African homophobia as surely as Matthew Shepard did in the USA. From what I know of him he was a Nelson Mandela figure for the LGBT folks of the sub-Saharan African continent.
The God of God Loves Uganda is not the creation of the religious right, it is the God who recognizes that love is the strongest force in the Universe even if it is between same gender people. This film is an expose of the other God who finds no place in his kingdom for LGBT people.
Watching documentaries such as these you wonder why people condemn themselves out of their own mouths. The news here is just reported, not laid on with a heavy hand. With some cross cutting footage from gay Ugandans and friendly clergy the impact of their statements is positively condemnatory.
The scenes of beating of gay men after a rousing sermon and a rousing session of the Ugandan Parliament that looked like a lynch mob is powerful and disturbing. As surely as Jews were made scapegoats LGBT people are the same, the parallels with Nazi Germany are too clear to overlook.
God Loves Uganda should be seen and reseen by all LGBT people and their straight allies. Every Gay/Straight Alliance group should get this for showing once it’s commercially available. Every LGBT youth group like Gay/Lesbian Youth Service in my town and in all areas should have this film shown. The stories of the gay Africans will inspire you.
And this film review is humbly dedicated to David Kato that gentle soul who battled with love, reason, and information against a ruthless enemy. May his spirit triumph. (bkoganbing , IMDB)