Editor's Note: Invisible Children's latest film, KONY 2012, premiered online today at 12 p.m. PST. It will serve as the cornerstone of a new joint campaign of Invisible Children, Resolve, and the Enough Project to make this year Joseph Kony's last as the leader of Africa's longest running insurgency. This Q+A with Invisible Children's Jason Russell, written by Krista Morgan, is cross-posted from IC's blog.
In anticipation of the Invisible Children Online World Premiere of KONY 2012, I sat down with co-founder and filmmaker Jason Russell to discuss details of the film and what his hopes are in launching the most important film we’ve ever made.
Why 2012? Why this year?
In the last 9 years of trying to end the war, the puzzle pieces have not been aligned like they are now. When Obama deployed the advisory troops in October, it was a shock. My psyche was stunned; I never thought that the government could or would actually do it. The fact that they did do it and that advisors are there now, makes the end of this war totally possible but it’s very time-sensitive. Everyone that’s been working on the conflict from Senator Inhofe to Resolve to John Prendergast know that it has to be 2012 because by the time it turns 2013, the advisors would have been there [some might say] too long.
What inspired you while creating the new film?
This film was one of – if not the hardest – for me to ever make because it was so personal and hard to be objective. What inspired me the most was seeing the purity through the eyes of my 4-year-old son while giving him limited information of Joseph Kony and what he does to children. Hearing Gavin say, “We need to stop him” really reinforced the purpose of the film for me. The intention of the movie from the very beginning was to make a 20-30 minute piece telling the audience exactly what the facts are and what exactly they can to do in order to see this conflict end. And I feel like we’ve done that.
Why make Joseph Kony famous?
We want to make him known, which is really hard to do in a culture that has so many options and distractions and different stories. So the best way we knew how to do that was to take advantage of the fact that it was an election year, and insert his name into a mock campaign in the run for presidency.
I’ve been inspired by Lauren Hill’s quote, “Fantasy is what people want but reality is what they need.” It’s the sense that people don’t want to think about war or think about child trafficking and it makes sense, I don’t want to think about it either. But if you can do something to influence the end of violence or tragedy in the world, then you should do it.
The problem with Joseph Kony is that nobody knows who he is. It was actually an idea Michael Poffenberger [of Resolve] had while working in DC talking with Congressmen and Senators. He said, “You know Gaddafi is known in North Korea but Joseph Kony is just not known…I wish Joseph Kony was famous.” And out of that came the whole campaign.
What’s the dream for KONY 2012?
The ultimate dream for KONY 2012 is that it becomes a tipping point for conversation, and that people will make a commitment to stop at nothing by making sure Kony is known in their circle of influence, whether it’s their family or office or school. The dream would be for Kony to be captured, not killed, and brought to the International Criminal Court to face trial. The world would know about his crimes and they would watch the trial play out on an international level, seeing a man face justice who got away with abducting children, raping little girls, and mutilating people’s faces for 26 years.
If you could say anything to Joseph Kony, what would it be?
[long pause] I’ve thought about this for a long time. I would just say thank you for creating such a clear example of what it means to be perverse and diabolical and for forcing us, as a generation and as a world, to deal with future individuals who think they can get away with murder.
He is the clearest example of something that we all as humans can agree on is wrong and needs to be stopped.