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WAR CRIMES

Kony 2012 makers release new video and campaign

After losing momentum following an embarrassing public incident, Invisible Children group refocuses attention on guerilla leader

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 4:04am
 

The San Diego-based group Invisible Children is attempting to recapture lost momentum in its quest to promote the capture of African warlord Joseph Kony six months after one of the group's leaders had a public meltdown.

In March, Jason Russell, the creative director of a video that captivated tens of millions of viewers with its plea for Kony's capture, was seen running naked through the streets of San Diego, talking gibberish, all caught on cellphone video by a bystander.

Invisible Children is trying to refocus public attention on bringing down the messianic Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army with a new 30-minute video, Move, which was posted on YouTube on Sunday night. Among other things, it examines the phenomenon of the original video and Russell's breakdown.

Invisible Children plans a November 17 rally in Washington to lobby the White House and leaders in Africa and Europe to redouble efforts to catch Kony, who fled Uganda in 2006 and is believed to be hiding in central Africa.

For nearly a decade, University of Southern California film school graduate Russell has been obsessed with alerting the world to Kony and his atrocities. In 2004, he and two college friends founded Invisible Children and set out to harness the power of the internet to stir public outrage.

But when his 11th video, Kony 2012, was posted in March, he was not prepared for so much attention - and criticism - from the mass media and the public. Always intense, he cracked under the pressure.

"My mind betrayed me," he said last week, after running around naked near his home

San Diego police took Russell to a mental health facility. The Invisible Children movement went from idealism to mockery.

Russell, 33, spent six weeks in care facilities and then months with his family and outside of the media spotlight, what he calls "an extended amount of time that has made me healthy."

He sees a therapist and takes medication. Now, with support from his family and the Invisible Children staff and volunteers, Russell is back at his life's work. He's also learned to laugh about the incident, even a savagely funny South Park satire it inspired.

"You have to either laugh or cry at how embarrassing it was. I've decided to laugh."

The incident may have overshadowed an Invisible Children event that the Kony 2012 video was meant to promote: a distribution of anti-Kony literature in several big cities in April. The event did not get the attention that the group had hoped.

Still, Invisible Children staff and volunteers rallied behind Russell, possibly because they too had experienced the phenomenal reaction to the Kony 2012 video. Russell and others had hoped it might get 500,000 views online. Instead, it got that amount in just hours.

"We thought we were prepared; we weren't," said Ben Keesey, 29, executive director and chief executive of Invisible Children. "In the face of a worldwide media storm, our PR staff was one intern."

Kony 2012 is one of the most-watched videos of all time: 111 million viewings at a recent counting. Even before the Kony 2012 video, President Barack Obama had sent US special forces troops to advise African troops in their hunt for Kony.

But Kony remains on the loose, and his followers, according to news reports, are still killing and kidnapping.

Invisible Children plans hundreds of showings of the new video at schools, universities and community halls across the US, to encourage the young generation to join the November 17 rally.

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