''Kony 2012'' director answers critics of video

Fri Mar 9, 2012 7:53pm EST
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The director of a video sensation that calls for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader of a Ugandan militia group, agreed on Friday with skeptics who have called the film oversimplified, saying it was deliberately made that way.

The 30-minute YouTube film called "Kony 2012," which by Friday had been viewed on YouTube more than 58 million times, aims to wake up the world to atrocities committed by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight.

Filmmaker Jason Russell's nonprofit group, Invisible Children, tapped 12 influential policy makers and 20 celebrities with popular Twitter accounts, including Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, to spread the video. Since then, the company owned by powerful producer Harvey Weinstein has contacted Russell to buy the film.

The phenomenal success of the video, including the savvy media campaign with tweets about Kony, has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but has suffered some criticism including that it oversimplified a long-standing human rights crisis.

Russell, who narrates the video with a personal story that juxtaposes shots of his young son in San Diego, California with the hopelessness of Ugandan children, told Reuters on Friday the video was only meant as a kick-starter to a complicated issue.

"It definitely oversimplifies the issue. This video is not the answer, it's just the gateway into the conversation. And we made it quick and oversimplified on purpose," he said. "We are proud that it is simple. We like that. And we want you to keep investigating, we want you to read the history."

Mixed reactions in Uganda include criticism that the attention has come too late, that much of the armed conflict in the area has subsided and the film leaves out that the Ugandan military is often accused of committing the same atrocities as Kony's fighters. In addition, Kony is believed to have long since fled Uganda and now only commands a few hundred followers.

"Kony has been indicted, that's what we are saying. It doesn't matter if he has three fighters, 300 or 3,000. That's not the issue," Russell said. The group's aim is to get Kony to surrender and be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where Kony is under indictment.   Continued...

 
Jason Russell, co-founder of non-profit Invisible Children and director of "Kony 2012" viral video campaign, poses in New York, March 9, 2012. The director of a viral video that calls for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader of Lord's Resistance Army militia group in Uganda, agreed on Friday with skeptics who have called the film oversimplified, saying it was deliberately made that way. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid