|Two award-winning documentaries of interest are showing at the Documentary Edge Festival. For Bridegroom you will need tissues. For God Loves Uganda you might need a sick bucket – it’s horrifying.
God Loves Uganda has been judged the Best International Documentary at the festival, which is underway in Auckland before moving to Wellington on 5 June.
The accolade is not surprising – the film is probably one of the most scarily important documentaries around right now. It delves into the influence American evangelicals are having in Uganda, which has passed its ‘jail the gays’ law since filming wrapped up.
The film starts with praying-to-bad-rock-music evangelical Americans from the ‘International House of Prayer’, or IHOP (not to be confused with the fast food chain, but far more tasteless) as they prepare for a mission to Uganda to convert the orphans. We hear from the impassioned church leader that ‘Africa is the place to be’ as the west is, apparently, in decline.
Cue homophobia. Cue weird scenes of people preaching in Ugandan traffic, of others shouting in ‘tongues’ and more people brainwashing kids with American evangelists’ take on what’s right and wrong.
Offering some insight into all the madness is Boston-based researcher Reverend Kapya Kaoma, who was forced to flee Uganda when he was targeted for his investigations into the inhumane treatment of its people. He’s an expert on the US Christian right’s exportation of homophobia who explains how the anti-homosexuality bill traces back to American nobody, but idol in Uganda, Scott Lively, one of the world’s most avidly anti-gay preachers.
Sneaky footage of Lively shows him spouting one lie after another about gay people to Ugandan leaders. It shows how he was able to address Uganda’s Parliament for five hours, unashamedly pushing for public policy to ‘discourage homosexuality’.
His rant appears to have immediately led to the drafting of Uganda’s anti-gay legislation.
“Africa became the dumping place for his extreme ideas,” Kaoma explains. For there, he was able to say things he couldn’t say in America.
Thank god there are those who refuse to bow to all the nonsense though. There is the beautiful Bishop Christopher Senyonjo who was kicked out of the Church of Uganda for counselling gay people to be who they are. There is the legacy of the brave David Kato, the father of Uganda’s gay rights movement who was murdered after being pictured in a newspaper with the headline: “Hang them, they are after our kids: Pictures of top 100 homos.”
And there are groups like Sexual Minorities Uganda who, with the help from overseas supporters, are taking legal action against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.
But things are getting worse. Since the influence of the evangelists, and Bush policies, HIV prevention has gone from pro-condom to all about abstinence. We know how well that works. And we know all about the reports of increased animosity and violence towards lgbti people in Uganda.
Yuck, yuck, yuck. It’s just yuck. And while this lucky Kiwi can sit and be horrified from oh so far away Auckland, our brothers and sisters in Uganda are living this modern day horror story. They are being persecuted, threatened, abused and arrested thanks to the influence of a few people in America who bow to a God of hatred.
Watch this film. It’s dismaying. You may be urged to grab the bibles from the hate-spewing evangelists’ hands and slap them with them. But what it exposes is so very important. It seems Uganda was only really the test case.---
Bridegroom, on the other hand, is from America, but the themes of religion and intolerance are still there. Yet the overwhelming elements to this documentary are love and loss.
The film is the result of a video Shane Crone put online after the shock death of the love of his life Tom Bridegroom in a fall, and the walls that were put up in his face because they had not been able to marry.
The video went viral and caused strong emotional reactions all over the world. Supported by the likes of Brad and George Takei and Neil Patrick Harris, Bridegroom was funded by over 6,500 people on Kickstarter. It offers a fuller account of the couple’s love story, the absolutely disgusting actions of Tom’s parents after he died, and a raw look at how Shane made it through it all.
Yes, it is absolutely heart-breaking, and yes it will make you aware once again that for some people hatred is still much stronger than love.
But once again, there are those who stand up against it. Most memorably there is Shane’s snake-killing 90-something great-grandmother whose wisdom steals the film: “They’re just Romeo and Romeo, get over it!” she says of people who have an issue with gay couples. In fact Shane’s entire family are warm-hearted people whose love for him may just be one of the key reasons he made it through such an enormity of tragedy and hatred when he lost the love of his life.
Thank goodness for families like these in the world.
God Loves Uganda screens again at Auckland’s Q Theatre on Monday 2 June at 8.15pm. It’s at Wellington’s Roxy Theatre on Saturday 7 June at 7PM and Sunday 15 June at 8.15PM.
Bridegroom shows again on Saturday 31 May at 1.15pm at Auckland’s Q Theatre. In Wellington it will be at Roxy Cinema on Saturday 7 June at 9.15PM and Thursday 12 June at 4PM.
Tickets and more info here. Jacqui Stanford - 26th May 2014