This post has been updated.
Invisible Children, the nonprofit group that produced the very viral half-hour documentary about brutal Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, released a new film Monday responding to criticisms about its campaign and overall approach. CEO Ben Keesey says it’s been “difficult” to read the criticisms. He said the group released the film to be “fully transparent.”
The group’s original “KONY 2012” documentary called for supporters to make Kony “famous” so that he can be brought to justice for the abduction and abuse of thousands of children by his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) over the past two decades.
The effort seems to have worked — the video now has nearly 74 million views on YouTube, 16.5 million on Vimeo and has spread across most social media networks with a virality that is unprecedented.
But Invisible Children also came under fire for the film, including criticisms that the group was “colonialist” or self-promoting, that it exaggerated numbers and the situation on the ground and that it may have misused its finances.
Below, watch Keesey’s answer to the criticisms:
Keesey makes his case largely by explaining that the nonprofit does three things: Makes films with a compelling narrative, does international advocacy and runs initiatives on the ground. But he makes it clear that advocacy and filmmaking take up a good chunk of the group’s time. And he says that overhead and travel costs are essential to those efforts. To see groups that are focused on initiatives on the ground in Uganda, go here.
Last week, a group spokesman told BlogPost that much of the criticism was “myopic.” Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and director of the film, said he agreed that the film was oversimplified but said its simplicity was intentional. “[It was] just the gateway into the conversation. ... And we want you to keep investigating, we want you to read the history.”
The nonprofit posted two other follow-up videos Friday, featuring survivors of LRA defending the Kony 2012 campaign. “I witnessed so many things that as a mother now I would not want ... to happen to my child or any other child,” explains Akiyu Stella Mistica, who says she was kidnapped by the LRA when she was 8. “Support [the campaign] so that we can bring Joseph Kony to face justice.”
Watch the original “Kony 2012” film below:
View photos of LRA:
BlogPost: Kony 2012 gets support of Obama
BlogPost: Invisible children responds to criticism