Roger Ross Williams (born September 16, 1973) is an American television news, documentary and entertainment director, producer and writer. He directed most notably Music by Prudence that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject), about a 21-year-old Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena, who was born severely disabled and has struggled to overcome poverty and discrimination. All other seven members of Prudence's band "Liyana" are also disabled. Williams most recently directed God Loves Uganda, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to enormous critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award, has won over a dozen awards and screened at over 60 film festivals worldwide.
Roger Ross Williams is the first African American director to win an Academy Award in his category of Documentary Shorts, and the first ever African American director to win an Academy Award for directing and producing a film, short or feature. He is a member of a Gullah family from South Carolina, and has lived and worked in New York City for the past twenty-five years. Williams attended Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and New York University in New York, NY.
Williams began his career producing political satire for Comedy Central and Michael Moore’s Emmy Award winning series TV Nation. He has also produced and directed numerous primetime specials for PBS, ABC, CBS, Sundance Channel and New York Times Television. He has won numerous awards for his TV work including a NAMIC Vision Award and the National Headliner for Best Human Interest Feature documentary.
He started working in 1985 and has since worked for ABC News, NBC News, MSNBC, BBC, CNN and has produced work for Comedy Central, Food Network, TLC, VH1 He has directed prime-time reality (for ABC and CBS) and produced a documentary series for Discovery Networks and a lifestyle series: Sheila Bridges Designer Living, for Scripps Networks.
Roger Ross Williams has several projects in development including a transmedia project with PBS called Traveling While Black, a feature documentary with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind called Life, Animated and a narrative feature film. Currently he serves on the alumni advisor board of both None On Record and the Sundance Institute. He splits his time between upstate New York and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.