Sequel to anti-Kony video addresses criticism

Associated Press Modified: April 5, 2012 at 8:00 am •  Published: April 5, 2012

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A wildly popular Internet video turned African warlord Joseph Kony into a household name and boosted the international hunt for the brutal rebel leader. Can a sequel do more?

That's the burning question for the small California advocacy group Invisible Children and its follow-up effort, "Kony 2012 Part II." The Associated Press was given a copy of the sequel before its Thursday release.

Part II repeats some of the same slick, inspiring shots as the original of a young global community mobilizing into action. But noticeably missing is the voice of the organization's co-founder, Jason Russell, who directed the first video. Russell was diagnosed with brief psychosis last month after witnesses saw him pacing naked on a sidewalk in a San Diego neighborhood, screaming incoherently and banging his fists on the pavement. His outburst happened shortly after Kony 2012 thrust the group into the global limelight.

The sequel also lacks the kind of narrative that made the original unique. The first Kony 2012 presented the global issue through a child's eyes, with a discussion between Russell, who directed the video, and his young son Gavin about stopping the bad guys.

The latest video is a traditional — albeit hip — documentary that addresses criticisms fired at the San Diego-based nonprofit since its overnight launch to fame.

Among the complaints were that Kony 2012 was too American-centric, that the group spends too little money directly on the people it intends to help, and that it oversimplified the 26-year-old conflict involving Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

The original video drew some 100 million hits on YouTube, and likely will go down in history as a case study on what can go viral, says pop culture expert Robert Thompson. But the Internet is fickle, he said.

"The fact is, the story has developed in so many odd ways with all the controversy, and the sequel can't really promise the bang of that first video — which is informing people of something they did not know before," said Thompson, a Syracuse University professor. "Now we're getting into the details, which is never that thrilling."

But then again, Thompson added, what goes viral never ceases to surprise.

Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's CEO, said the sequel was made in two weeks. The thinking, he said, was the organization needed to answer to people wanting to know who was behind last month's Internet success that prompted the African Union to send 5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for Kony, and a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. senators to back a resolution condemning Kony.

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