Three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in Spring 2003 in search of a story. What they found inspired them to create a documentary entitled “Invisible Children.” Now, six years later, their film is at the heart of a global movement to raise awareness of the plight of child soldiers in eastern Africa.
Several representatives of this movement visited West Chester University last Wednesday evening to screen the filmmakers’ latest work, a new documentary called “The Rescue,” as well as to raise money and promote their campaign to free child soldiers.
“Invisible Children” was created by Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole of San Diego, Ca.
Despite its humble beginnings the film was shot using a camera -that they purchased off of eBay-they now estimate that more then five million people around the world have seen the film.
Russell, Bailey and Poole were inspired to take up the cause after traveling into Uganda and hearing stories of the atrocities and war crimes committed by Joseph Kony. Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been engaged in a civil war with the Ugandan government for the last 23 years, making it the longest running war in Africa.
The LRA is a fiercely religious group, one whose main goal is to install a theocratic government in Uganda. Their leader Kony is believed by some to be a “messiah” and to possess the ability to read minds and walk on water. It is also said that his eyes glow red.
Support for the LRA amongst the Ugandan people dwindled in the early 90’s, so much so that the group began abducting children in huge numbers, and forcing them to become soldiers. Some estimates say that the total number of children abducted by Kony and the LRA is as high as 60,000 since the war began. Children, both boys and girls, as young as five years old have been taken. Many estimates have as many as 3,000 children still being helped by the LRA, though these numbers can vary significantly.
Kony has used his reputation as a supernatural figure to maintain power over the children, leading them to believe that he will know if they even think of trying to escape.
The LRA’s brutal methods and tactics, which include killing entire villages, led to their being classified as a terrorist organization by the Patriot Act in 2001 and in 2005 they were indicted by the International Criminal Court in as “war criminals.” This indictment, however, has stalled peace talks with Kony, who will only surrender if he is granted immunity from prosecution.
The purpose behind “Invisible Children” was to provide a voice to the children that Kony has taken, and the same is true of the new documentary “The Rescue.”
“The Rescue” updates the conflict in Uganda, which has spread to neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan.
The film also covers the most successful peace negotiations with the LRA, which eventually broke down when Kony refused to emerge from hiding to sign the treaty. Russell, Bailey and Poole, along with many others who hoped for peace, spent five days and nights in the jungle waiting for Kony to emerge— which he never did.
With “The Rescue,” Russell Bailey and Poole have set their sights on freeing the abducted children from Kony. To do so they have set up an elaborate program that begins on March 25.
On that day they encourage everyone to watch the “The Rescue” with their friends and family. That same day, a new video will be posted online at invisiblechildren.com with specific instructions for April 25, the day when supporters are encouraged to “abduct themselves” by leaving their homes and traveling to a predetermined location to camp out in protest of Kony’s actions. These locations can be found in 100 cities throughout nine countries world wide. Both Philadelphia, Pa. and Washington, D.C. have been chosen as sites.
Invisible Children Inc., which is sponsoring the event, is hoping for 80,000 or more people to take part in the protest.
“We’re not going to have ‘Joseph Konys’ or ‘Adolf Hitlers’ any more,” said Jolia, one of the members who spoke on Wednesday, echoing a sentiment from “The Rescue.”
The program was presented by the Black Student Union, as well as the WCU chapter of Invisible Children. For more information on Invisible Children and how you can help, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu