Magazine article Variety

Outsider Art

Magazine article Variety

Outsider Art

Article excerpt

The films made by Roger Ross Williams would at first appear to have little in common. "Life, Animated" the acclaimed documentary that premiered at Sundance in January, got into the head of a young man on the autistic spectrum who learned to relate to the world through Disney animated films. Williams' 2013 feature "God Loves Uganda" focused on the Christian right in that nation. Along the way, he has made shorts about everything from a young disabled African musician (the Oscar-winning "Music by Prudence") to a gay luchador (for "The New Yorker Presents") to the Dutch holiday tradition of Zwarte Piet ("Blackface").

But Williams sees them as all of a piece.

"They're actually very connected, because everything I do is about people who feel they're outside of society, outside of the mainstream," says the native of Easton, Pa., who now lives in upstate New York. "I felt like I was an outsider growing up in the black church, as a gay man, in a poor community."

Julie Goldman, a producer on "Life, Animated" "God Loves Uganda," and "Blackface" explains, "Really, what attracts Roger is the human side of the story. He'll have this breakthrough with subjects where they'll say, 'I've never talked about this before,' or 'I've never gotten emotional like this,' and it's because he has this extraordinary empathy. …

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