UPDATE, March 16, 5:15 pm.: It's being widely reported that Jason Rusell, co-founder of Invisible Childen and narrator of KONY 2012, was arrested yesterday morning in San Diego for masturbating in public.
[Editor's Note: No, we're not making this up. Yes, this is the weirdest update to a film review you will ever read.]
Police responded to reports of a screaming, half-naked man who seemed to be either vandalizing or trying to break into vehicles. It was Russell. Rather than arrest him, the cops arranged for him to receive medical care, based on his behavior. NBC San Diego was first with the news. Here's where you can read their story and see an official statement on the incident from Invisible Children. Or you can go to TMZ and watch a video of a man the website claims is Russell acting loco.
ORIGINAL POST, March 9, 10:36 am: In case you haven't noticed, the internets are all abuzz over KONY 2012, a documentary by the San Diego-based non-profit Invisible Children that aims to prove the somewhat questionable point that social media can make an already reviled Ugandan war criminal even more reviled, thanks to the miracle of Twitter. As the LA Times pointed out yesterday, the film's big innovation is to target 20 A-list celebrities who you can poke to action on the film's website above. Courtesy of the Times, btw, here's noted scholar Kim Kardashian's response to the film: "Wow just watched! What a powerful film! Stop Kony!!!"
Joseph Kony is a bad guy, that's for sure. But according to Peter Ngugi, OC Weekly's very own intern from Uganda-neighboring Kenya (who doesn't have his own blog account so I'm posting it for him) that's about all you can say in defense of KONY 2012 the movie.
Read Peter's review after the jump...
For those living away from the fangs of social media, this a documentary made by the non-profit organization Invisible Children out of San Diego. The film is narrated by Jason Russell, a co-founder of said outfit who is balls-out to make Mr. Kony, the infamous leader of the Uganda-based Lord's Rebel Army, or L.R.A., which made a name for itself praising Jesus while chopping families to pieces and recruiting child soldiers, into a household name.
"99 percent of the world does not know who he is nor has a clue as to what he has done nor accomplished," Russell says. Starting from this statement of ignorance, Russell then explains Kony to his young son, Gavin. In doing so, he simplifies the atrocities that Kony has committed in such a child-like way that anyone who has a real understanding of the L.R.A. will want to poke their brain out with an ice pick and flush it down the toilet.
Indeed, in this toddler-friendly film, neither the L.R.A. nor its 26-year evolution in the context of Uganda's endemic ethnic strife is explained. Russell does not explain how we got to the point where we are today, with Kony and what's left of his ragtag rebel army on the run, chased by Ugandan soldiers, United Nations troops, and--that's right, John Wayne--even 100 U.S. Green Berets.
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Russell fails to tell viewers the most obvious and important fact: the L.R.A. was a product of a long-running internal fight between the Acholi people of Northern Uganda and the Southerners led by a kleptomaniac dictator named Yoweri Museveni, the fifth longest standing dictator in modern times, who has been in power since 1986. (Maybe he'll get his own movie and Twitter campaign someday).
Instead, viewers are treated to Russell congratulating himself after the U.S. Congress passed a law deeming Kony a terrorist after eight years of trying. Not surprisingly, he chooses not to go back and examine the failures by the same body that had ignored the issue for the last 26 years, during which time the U.S. supported Museveni and his corrupt forces while they continually wrecked havoc around Central Africa, giving rise to the likes of Kony in the first place.
What's left? Just an endless parade of celebrities: Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Rick Warren, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and George Clooney, who at least has an understanding of Darfur if not Uganda, to Bono and finally--wait for it--Justin Bieber. That's right--worry not, invisible children of Africa--Justin Bieber hears your plea for help and has the tweets to prove it.
While any effort to draw attention to the terrible atrocities wreaked by Kony and his cohorts, KONY 2012 only succeeds in presenting the story in the most ignorant and meaningless possible way, reducing it to nothing but a string of vapid celebrity soundbites. If Russell was truly interested in educating the public or helping to find a solution to the mess, a good way to start would have been to make a film that actually attempted to tell this tragic story.