Steven Sheehan’s review published on Letterboxd:
An interesting look at the American Christian Right and their evangelical missions into Uganda, the 'Pearl of Africa'. The Book of Mormon may have satirised the missionaries that head into the country spreading the word of the Gospel but as this documentary shows, the negative impact of their work on the continent appears to be worryingly real.
Anti-gay and homophobic rhetoric appears to be the headline act under which they are delivering their message, pressurising the Government into proposing an anti-homosexual bill in the country, making same sex relationships illegal. David Kato, who was the subject of the 2012 documentary Call Me Kuchu, was a high profile victim of the dangerous ignorance being spread across Uganda, hammered to death by those who took the law into their own hands.
Roger Ross Williams' film takes a look at this troubling combination of politics and religion, how the funding from the Bush administration dictated the moral guidelines being taught in a country with one of the highest rates of HIV on the continent. Promote the use of condoms and the money reduced, preach abstinence along with the beliefs taught by the Christian Right and the funds remained in place.
We watch young missionaries from the Missouri-based International House of Prayer doing their work in the community. The forceful approach being used feels like it is taking advantage of people who are looking for some hope, already overexposed to the dominant American culture imported into their daily lives. Many of these young white men and woman no doubt arrive with the best of intentions, the problem being that they have already been brainwashed back home in America, so they themselves are naively spreading ignorance through God.
There is very little narration across the film, the camera capturing enough footage of these enforcers of God's word to speak loudly and clearly enough for itself. Some of the sermons delivered would be absurdly funny if who they were being delivered to weren't so readily accepting of what they were hearing. Targeting a sexuality that is still culturally misunderstood in Africa is a particularly underhand method being used by many.
Almost 50% of Uganda's 33 million population is under the age of 15, a quite staggering statistic in itself. It is the perfect hunting ground for the mega-churches that are appearing across the country to seize control of these young minds. Many countries on the continent are being targeted in this way suggesting that outsiders will always interfere with the progression of the region, never allowing it to flourish in its own right and find its true potential.