LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The makers of the viral “Kony 2012” video that drew world attention to a violent rebel campaign by fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony released a new film on Thursday, pushing back against criticism that their work oversimplified a long-running conflict.
The video, shot in the same energetic and idealistic style as the viral hit, encourages viewers to see themselves as global citizens in a close-knit world that needs to see Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army brought to justice.
“We want people to dig deeper into this conflict and actively engage in the solutions,” Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, said in a statement announcing the new 20-minute video: “Kony 2012: Part II - Beyond Famous.”
The “Kony 2012” film became an Internet sensation last month, racking up more than 100 million hits in six days on social media after it was first posted on the Internet.
Its success has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but the film has also been criticized for ignoring African initiatives to solve the crisis and opening up old wounds.
Unlike the first video, which focuses heavily on the personality of filmmaker Jason Russell, the new video includes a plethora of African voices and more detailed context on the current status of Kony and his rebel group.
But the attention the film generated has also taken its toll on Russell, the narrator of the “Kony 2012” film, who suffered a public meltdown in California that doctors described as a brief psychotic breakdown.
“We’ve always been the underdog hitting the ceiling with a broomstick saying, ‘Listen, we’re trying to do something over here!’ And then everybody looked,” Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children’s Director of Idea Development, told Reuters before the second video launch.
“We were so confident in the message that we never thought people would come attack us personally. That’s been the biggest hurdle,” he added.
Joseph Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for two decades, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves, and is said to like hacking off limbs.
Kony and the rebel group were ejected from northern Uganda in 2005. Kony and few hundred followers are believed to roam the remote jungle straddling the borders of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
The “Beyond Famous” video details how Kony’s forces have operated in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, a nuance that was hit on only briefly in the original video.
“When you see something slick, when you see something that feels like propaganda, we’re used to thinking that it’s selling something,” Jenkins said. “You can sell something that is actually good and intelligent. It doesn’t have to be a trick.”
The new video shows footage of Kony and his fighters lighting fire to villages and training for military operations in the jungle, and interviews some of those displaced by his violence. It says that since the first video was released, Kony’s fighters had abducted 57 more people in the central African border area where he operates.
“Now we have the opportunity to work together as a global community to help solve this issue,” said Jolly Okot, Invisible Children’s Uganda Country Director.
The video also appears to fight accusations of “slacktivism” and “clicktivism” by telling supporters to pick up trash, work in food kitchens, and perform community service as they also paper their cities with anti-Kony posters.
On April 20, the group will sponsor a “Cover the Night” day of activism, in which the video says supporters will “earn the right to be heard globally by serving locally.”
Additional reporting by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jackie Frank