Even at SXSW in Austin, Texas, KONY 2012 is the topic of conversation. It was the elephant in the room during a panel on social documentary filmmaking and social media. Fortunately, the panelists addressed the elephant — more than once.
KONY 2012 is the massively viral YouTube video, directed and narrated by director Jason Russell who founded Invisible Children, that shines the spotlight on Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord who has been abducting children and turning them into soldiers and sex slaves. In the space of a few days, the video has become an international sensation, garnering almost 70 million views on YouTube and even triggering a response from the Ugandan government, which now plans to capture Kony. It has also drawn some criticism for potentially oversimplifying the issues, possibly encouraging “slacktivism” and turning Kony into a celebrity.
The panel’s assembled documentarians, though, chose to address the effectiveness of KONY 2012 as social documentary.
Ontario community manager and panel moderator Meghan Warby said the documentary was stripping away the politics to get to the actual conflict in Uganda.
Dorothy Engelman, who currently runs GetINvolved.Ca in Canada, spent 20 years as a producer and documentary maker. She recognizes that KONY 2012 used celebrity because that’s how you reach everyday people.
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