current & past
This spring, Roger Ross Williams will make his feature narrative directorial debut with Cassandro, starring Gael García Bernal.
Cassandro tells the true story of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso who rises to international stardom after he creates the “exotico” character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” and in the process upends not just the macho wrestling world but also his own life.
Williams wrote Cassandro with Emmy-winner David Teague (Cutie and the Boxer, Life, Animated) and Julián Herbert (Satelite). Motto Pictures’ Julie Goldman (One Child Nation, Life, Animated), Escape Artists’ Todd Black (Troop Zero, The Upside), and Ted Hope will produce.
“I have always been attracted to telling the stories of outsiders. The remarkable real-life tale of Cassandro, a gay Mexican wrestler who lives on the border of the US and Mexico, immediately grabbed me. Here was a true outsider, a homosexual man in a deeply Catholic culture who rose to fame in the macho world of Lucha Libre wrestling, not by hiding his sexuality, but by making it central to his performance. My own life experience as a gay, black man has made me realize the importance of telling stories we don’t usually hear. Movies can be a chance to bring people together – to let the marginalized know that they are not alone, and to show that we all face universal struggles, regardless of skin color, nationality, or sexuality.” – RRW
The Apollo chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark.
Internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue, the Apollo Theater created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for myriad artists including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and more.
“Everything that happens on that stage is really political, whether it’s The Temptations in Italian suits changing the image and perception of what Black men looked like, or Billie Holiday singing the protest song ‘Strange Fruit,’ which she could only sing at The Apollo—it was banned in radio stations, to James Brown in 1968 [performing] ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ a rallying cry for America after the assassination of Martin Luther King.” – RRW
The Apollo covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage. The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the broad range of African-American achievement that The Apollo Theater represents.
The Apollo won the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special.
CREDITS: Directed and Produced by Roger Ross Williams. Premiered at Tribeca 2019. HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS, IMPACT PARTNERS and THE APOLLO THEATER FOUNDATION present in association with POLYGRAM ENTERTAINMENT, 164 OWR, CHICAGO MEDIA PROJECT, MACRO, BERT MARCUS PRODUCTIONS, JUST FILMS | FORD FOUNDATION ANOTHER CHAPTER PRODUCTIONS and MOTTO PICTURES, A WHITE HORSE PICTURES production, a film by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS Executive Producers JONELLE PROCOPE, GERALYN WHITE DREYFOUS, JENNY RASKIN, KEN PELLETIER, EMBREY FAMILY FOUNDATION LAGRALANE GROUP, DAVID BLACKMAN, CYNTHIA SEXTON, CHARLES KING, KIM ROTH, POPPY HANKS, CARLENE C. LAUGHLIN, DAVE KNOTT, LYNDA WEINMAN Music Supervisors G. MARQ ROSWELL, DONDI BASTONE Composer ROBERT GLASPER Director of Photography MICHAEL DWYER Written By CASSIDY HARTMANN, JEAN TSIEN Edited by JEAN TSIEN ACE, JOHN S. FISHER, Executive Producers NIGEL SINCLAIR, DAN COGAN, NICHOLAS FERRALL, JULIE GOLDMAN Executive Producers for HBO: NANCY ABRAHAM, LISA HELLER Produced by LISA CORTES, JEANNE ELFANT FESTA, CASSIDY HARTMANN Produced and Directed by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS
Traveling While Black
Traveling While Black is a cinematic VR experience directed by Roger Ross Williams in collaboration with VR pioneers Félix Lajeunesse & Paul Raphaël.
“Traveling While Black is more than history — it’s about community. Describing the experience, people want to do something, and they can’t escape it. They can’t even escape it once they take the headset off.” – RRW
Traveling While Black immerses the viewer in the long history of restriction of movement for black Americans and the creation of safe spaces in our communities, confronting the way we understand and talk about race in America.
Traveling While Black premiered at Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy and won a Webby Award.
CREDITS: Directed by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS in collaboration with FÉLIX LAJEUNESSE and PAUL RAPHAËL Featuring SANDRA BUTLER-TRUESDALE, VIRGINIA ALI, THERRELL SMITH, COURTLAND COX, FRANK SMITH, DAVID STRADER, AMANDA KING, SAMARIA RICE Co-directed by AYESHA NADARAJAH Produced by FELIX & PAUL STUDIOS Executive Producers BONNIE NELSON SCHWARTZ, RYAN HORRIGAN STÉPHANE RITUIT Producers AYESHA NADARJAH, JIHAN ROBINSON, LINA SRIVASTAVA Cinematic VR Technology FELIX & PAUL STUDIOS Line Production SAILOR PRODUCTIONS Immersive Sound HEADSPACE STUDIO Music by JASON MORAN Oculus Experiences Executive Producer YELENA RACHITSKY AND COLUM SLEVIN Special Thanks to BEN’S CHILI BOWL AND THE ALI FAMILY
Everyone thought that the autistic Owen Suskind would never talk. He’s already a young kid when he suddenly starts speaking in full sentences. Not just sentences: quotes from Disney movies…
“Owen lives in his own head. He would ignore the camera and sound guys. He has no filter, he never wonders what other people think of him or how they feel, he’s never acting. He wouldn’t ever let me do retakes – I’d say, ‘Owen I didn’t get the shot of you walking through the door, can you do it again?’ and he would say, ‘Why? I already walked through it!” – RRW
Life, Animated follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three year old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires. Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with the Disney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks.
Life Animated premiered at Sundance 2016, where it won the Directing Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature, and won three Emmys in 2018, including the award for Best Documentary.
CREDITS: Directed & Produced by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS Produced by JULIE GOLDMAN Edited By DAVID TEAGUE Executive Producers MOLLY THOMPSON, ROBERT DEBITETTO, ROBERT SHARENOW Cinematography by TOM BERGMANN Co-Producers CAROLYN HEPBURN, CHRISTOPHER CLEMENTS Original Music by DYLAN STARK, T. GRIFFIN Score Produced by T. GRIFFIN Executive Producer RON SUSKIND Associate Producer LINDSAY RICHARDSON Production Coordinator SEAN LYNESS Original Animation MAC GUFF Title Sequence and Graphics TROLLBÄCK + COMPANY
God Loves Uganda
Roger Ross Williams’ first feature-length documentary, God Loves Uganda, is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right.
The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.
“Almost every evangelical I met –American or Ugandan– was polite, agreeable, even charming. Yet I knew that if the bill passed, there would be blood on the streets of Kampala.” – RRW
Using vérité, interviews, and hidden camera footage, God Loves Uganda allows American religious leaders and their young missionaries that make up the “front lines in a battle for billions of souls” to explain their positions in their own words. Shocking and enlightening, touching and horrifying, God Loves Uganda leaves you questioning just how closely this brand of Christianity resembles the one you think you know.
God Loves Uganda premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18th 2013, was shortlisted for an Academy Award ®, and has screened at over 60 American and international film festivals, winning numerous awards.
CREDITS: Directed and Produced by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS FORD FOUNDATION ITVS INDEPENDENT LENS present a FULL CREDIT PRODUCTIONS and MOTTO PICTURES production GOD LOVES UGANDA Music by MARK DEGLI ANTONI Cinematography by DEREK WIESEHAHN Associate Producers PAIGE RUANE CASPER DE BOER Line Producer CAROLYN HEPBURN Edited by BENJAMIN GRAY RICHARD HANKIN Supervising Editor RICHARD HAKIN Produced by JULIE GOLDMAN Supported by: FORD FOUNDATION ITVS OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS SUNDANCE INSTITUTE DOCUMENTARY FILM PROGRAM CINEREACH TRIBECA FILM INSTITUTE BERTHA FOUNDATION THE FLEDGLING FUND GOOD PITCH A Variance Films Release
Music by Prudence
Roger Ross Williams wrote, produced and directed the 2010 Academy Award® short film winner, Music by Prudence.
“As the film developed, so did the focus of the story. While I had originally set out to include other members of Prudence’s band as main characters, as all filmmakers know, the story you set out to shoot isn’t always the story you end up with. Prudence’s story shone through in a way that was illuminating and enlightening.” – RRW
Music by Prudence tells a self-empowering story of one young woman’s struggle who, together with her band, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds and, in her own voice, conveys to the world that “disability does not mean inability.”
Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena was born severely disabled. The society she was born into considers disabilities to carry the taint of witchcraft. Because of this, many disabled children are abandoned. But Prudence and the seven young members of the band she has formed called Liyana, all disabled, have managed to overcome stereotypes and inspire the same people that once saw them as a curse.
Music by Prudence won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
CREDITS: Directed, written and produced by ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS, produced by ELINOR BURKETT and PATRICK WRIGHT (co-producer) Director of Photography: DEREK WIESEHAHN Edited by GEETA GANDBHIR Featuring PRUDENCE MABHENA, FARAI MABHANDE, ENERGY MABURUTSE, MARVELOUS MBULO, HONEST MUPATSI, TAPIWA NYENGERA, GOODWELL NZOU, VUSANI VUMA Distributed by HBO