HBO’s new three-part docuseries Savior Complex premiered on Tuesday, and it takes a hard look at Renee Bach — a white, American woman whose story went viral after she was accused of killing children at an Evangelical missionary clinic in Uganda by administering medical care without any formal training.
In the docuseries, Bach tells her full side of the story. Her now-shuttered clinic, Serving His Children, was located in Jinja, Uganda, and was dedicated to rehabilitating children suffering from malnutrition. Bach has admitted that she was underqualified to offer medical care, but she has always insisted that the care she did administer was necessary to save children’s lives. She denies any wrongdoing.
A total of 105 children died while under the care of Serving His Children, according to documentation provided in Savior Complex. But Bach argues that when patients arrive at the clinic in such dire medical conditions, deaths are unavoidable.
For context, the doc also explains that at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, the mortality rate for children being treated for malnutrition is 14% on average, while the mortality rate at Serving His Children was 11%.
Renee Bach Speaks in Savior Complex
“I would think that people would look at that and at least second guess all these accusations that are being made,” Bach says in the docuseries.
Bach has not been tried criminally for any of the allegations against her either in Uganda or in the U.S. There was a civil case brought against her by the mothers of two children who died at Serving His Children in Uganda, but the case was resolved with a settlement.
Ultimately, Savior Complex doesn’t provide a definitive answer about whether or not Bach is responsible for any children’s deaths. But it does open up an important conversation about the ethics of white, Evangelical missionaries who come to African countries offering help however they see fit.
“Really, the whole point of this series is to draw attention to the concept of helping without hurting,” director Jackie Jesko tells MovieMaker, “and raise some hard questions. These aren’t questions that have easy answers.”
“It was really tough — as a journalist, I mean — to get to know what happened,” Jesko adds. “Uganda doesn’t have a lot of record-keeping infrastructure, so all of the documents we had about what happened, all of the information we had about what happened, journalistically, was from Serving His Children.
“It was really, really difficult to get the Ugandan officials to talk to us at all. So, a lot of slammed doors in our faces. And look, I totally get it. There’s no upside for them to talk about this story and everything gets political. When it starts to be about a white American missionary, nobody wants to get in trouble. Nobody wants to discourage that aid money that they do, in fact, rely upon. So there were a lot of challenges and figuring out the stories and… figuring out, okay, what can we prove? What can we not prove?”
With a case like Renee Bach and Serving His Children, there will always be two sides to the story. But the first step to finding a resolution is to start asking questions.
“I can’t possibly give you all the answers there — but certainly to provoke a conversation, especially amongst people who might be considering going overseas and doing good, which is noble and needed often. But you have to be questioning yourself,” Jesko says. “Am I really acting within my own capabilities? Or am I sort of taking advantage of an environment where things are allowed that wouldn’t be allowed where I come from?”
Savior Complex is now streaming on Max.
Main Image: Renee Bach pictured in Savior Complex courtesy of HBO.