Students from New York Film Academy LA’s Documentary Department are given student memberships to the International Documentary Association and frequently attend IDA screenings, workshops and events. In July, they attended the kick-off of the Summer/Fall season of the IDA Conversation series with Academy Award®-winning director Roger Ross Williams. Williams was the first African American director to win an Academy Award for his documentary short Music by Prudence, about a severely disabled but extraordinarily talented African singer. Williams’ s latest film, Life, Animated, was just released in theaters on July 1st. The film tells the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. Life, Animated won the prestigious U.S. Documentary Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Festival and is widely expected to be nominated for the Oscar.
NYFA students really took note when Williams discussed how he made his film, God Loves Uganda, a searing look at the role American missionaries are playing in the persecution of homosexuals in that country. Uganda has become the prime destination for American missionaries who proselytize heavily against homosexuality. As a gay man, Williams said he “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.” He described how he was able to gain access to one such evangelical group, The Call, without denying his own truth or dissembling in any way.