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Invisible Children
By Mikhail Bell

Released on October 7, Invisible Children’s (IC) new documentary “MOVE” attempts to set the record straight about co-founder Jason Russell’s public meltdown and what is really at stake if Joseph Kony is not captured before January 1, 2013. The new 31-minute documentary clarifies where IC went succeeded, where they erred, and what they are going to do on November 17.

MOVE’s predecessor, “Kony 2012”, resurfaced the international search for Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony. The March 5 video trended on Twitter for days, lingered on Facebook for weeks, and engaged Americans in a conversation about intervening in a region that does directly align with our international grand strategy.

In short order it became the most viral video in YouTube history.

What started as a wave of support for the California-based non-profit quickly descended into a wave of anger, confusion, and misinformation against them. From Al-Jazeera to Red Eye media outlets voiced concern that was increasingly about Invisible Children’s legitimacy and less about persistent use of child soldiers in sub-Saharan Africa’s ongoing conflicts. Soon #Kony2012 and #StopKony became sharpened arrows that were pointed by their creators.

According to the LA Times, Russell’s parents run the Christian Youth Theater in California. An emergent church follower, Russell has openly discussed his faith.

Despite the faith of at least one of its founders, Invisible Children is not a faith-based organization.

“MOVE” leverages pessimism about Millennials, purportedly disaffected consumers of nothingness, in the same way that the filmmakers saw the press speak so poorly of Invisible Children, to mobilize their target demographic.

What Is Different?

First, the documentary shows meetings and unedited mini-interviews with IC staff during the dark days that followed the release of “Kony 2012”. It is clear that the viewer should be on Invisible Children’s side when the video ends. However this is because they are won you over with their honesty, not chicanery, a common criticism of “Kony 2012”.

Second, “MOVE” explains why action is needed in Central Africa and briefly covers the LRA’s location within the region. The takeaway: Joseph Kony is a malevolent warlord whose days are numbered. All viewers need to do is march on Washington to show elected officials their support for decisive action that will remove Kony from the battlefield.

Third, the video introduces more characters to a complex plot. Viewers meet IC’s social media lead Noelle Jouglet, who explains why “Kony 2012” is more than just another social issue. Invisible Children CEO and Deloitte alumnus Ben Kessey, who joined Invisible Children in 2005. The non-profit also ditched little-known United Nations officials in favor of more relatable Ugandan narrators.

One of these individuals, Nobert Mao, President of Uganda’s Democratic Party, says “It woke up the world because the world has a tendency of forgetting, moving from one thing to another. So it was a wakeup call.”

What Is the Same?

Visual engagement has been central to Invisible Children’s DNA since its 2004 inception. Their other campaigns, such as Tri and Schools for Schools, effectively merge catchy music with clear calls to action.

“It worked. It got people talking about an issue. [If] we’d had academics giving a presentation on the LRA then 13 people would have watched it,” New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof said of Kony 2012.

“Move” follows the same paradigm calling on supporters to “hold world leaders accountable to their commitments to end LRA violence.” Like Kony 2012, “MOVE” is relying heavily on social media to reach 10 world leaders to participate in what it has dubbed a “Global Summit on the LRA”.

Invisible Children organized similar events, albeit under less controversial circumstances, in 2006 with the Global Night Commute and in 2010 with the Rescue.

Undoubtedly, Invisible Children’s “MOVE” will reignite a national conversation about slacktivism, Millennials, and U.S. foreign policy in Africa. On November 17, the promises and talk will culminate in thousands descending on Washington, DC’s Convention Center from across the country.

Why Is This Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking refers to an array of illegal activities that subjugate an individual’s will and violate his/her dignity. The Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2008 defines a child soldier as an individual “who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.” As the definition notes, minors of both sexes are forcibly recruited into military service, where they are often placed on the front lines of regional conflict.

Similarly, the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report reveals that youth are vulnerable to more than enemy bullets. It notes: “male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases”.

Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are recent cases of this type of human trafficking. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge relied on child soldiers as well.

How do you think? Share your thoughts below and on Twitter using the hashtag #MOVEDC.

Here is the “MOVE” trailer:

Watch the full-length version here.