Uganda's Antigay Bill vs. a Documentary on Homophobia

Published: January 2, 2014

“The Square” and “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” are not the only Oscar-shortlisted international documentaries that have run into trouble at home. “God Loves Uganda,” about the role of American evangelicals in stirring up homophobia in that African country, has suffered an arguably even more difficult fate. On Dec. 20, the nation’s Parliament passed a strict antigay bill, which mandates life in jail for engaging in “aggravated homosexuality,” as well prohibiting any form of same-sex contact. Though it has yet to be signed into law by the country’s president, it also carries harsh penalties for anyone promoting or even discussing gay material like that covered by the film, and demands that Ugandans inform on gay people or risk jail themselves.

 
A prominent gay rights advocate, David Kato, was beaten to death in his neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala in 2011, a killing that drew international attention. And even before the new bill was passed, work on gay topics was stifled. Last year, a British man with a family in Uganda was deported after he produced a play with gay themes.
 
A Ugandan newspaper, The Observer, covered “God Loves Uganda” when it was shortlisted by the Academy. “If the documentary makes the final nominee list or even wins the whole thing,” Andrew Kaggwa wrote, “this is one milestone not many Ugandans will celebrate, given the subject at hand that many still can’t comprehend.”
 
Still, Mr. Williams is hopeful that his film — and coverage of it — will spotlight an increasingly dangerous situation. An Oscar nomination, he believes, could have an even greater impact. (He is already an Oscar winner, for the documentary short “Music by Prudence.”)

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