Russell was in town preparing for MOVE: DC, a weekend event highlighted by a global summit that features international leaders discussing solutions to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict. Russell’s viral video was a short documentary on fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, head of the LRA, who has been accused of kidnapping children and forcing them to become members of his army or sex slaves. An international court has indicted Kony for war crimes.
Representatives from the United Nations, African Union and International Criminal Court will be in attendance. The free event, open to the public, will take place Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
After a screening of the Invisible Children documentary “MOVE” — a behind-the-scenes glance at the effort behind “Kony 2012” — Russell participated in a Q & A of pre-screened questions.
He surprised audiences with his candor when discussing his youthful aspirations, the film’s instant fame and its subsequent backlash. He even made light of his very public, nude breakdown, which was attributed to brief reactive psychosis near his San Diego home in March.
“My choices were [to either] hide in a hole and never show my face again or just be myself and say, look, that wasn’t me on the corner,” he said, “It was a cluster of things, but I am here [now], this is who I am, and this is what I care for.”
I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Russell before his Lisner appearance Tuesday.
Q: What is the current status of Joseph Kony?
A: We know, without a doubt, that Kony is on the disputed border between South Darfur and the Central African Republic. Basically, he is in a safe haven where is he allowed to roam free. Returnees who have been brought out of the bush, many due to our programs in the area, have provided us with knowledge of his whereabouts.
Until we, and by we I mean the Ugandan military and 100 advisory troops, are legally and internationally able to go into that region, Kony will remain safe.
Q: What are the major challenges the organization has faced this past year, and how have you addressed them?
A: This tour [the group conducts film screenings at high schools and colleges] was centered on rebuilding trust, and the movie [“MOVE”] was all about how [“Kony 2012”] went viral and the aftermath of that, how people thought it was a scam and all the negative energy, comments and criticisms. We really believe that [trust] can only be rebuilt face-to-face. It’s really hard to just put it out there in a movie and have people understand our authenticity. It takes time.