In just four days, the half-hour video known as KONY 2012 has garnered over 55 million views on YouTube. The film, produced by the non profit organization Invisible Children, describes the threat and atrocities of Ugandan militant Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers known as the Lord's Resistance Army. The mini-documentary urges viewers to campaign in support of Kony's capture and arrest.
Many now know Kony's name, but few know that Steven Spielberg, one of the world's top movie directors, helped provide the spark for what has turned into an online sensation.
Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children and the narrator of KONY 2012, studied cinema production at the University of Southern California's film school. After graduating in 2002, he took a trip with two friends to southern Sudan to document war-ravaged Darfur.
Spielberg, it turns out, helped finance that trip.
"Out of film school, Jason sold a script to Spielberg for a dance movie … and he took some of the money and went on—in his own words—'a filmmaking adventure,' " says Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey.
"While he was out there, they encountered the story of the Lord's Resistance Army and they met Jacob, the boy you see in [the YouTube video], and they made him a promise," Keesey explains. "And they thought that it would be a six month or a year commitment, and here we are nine years later."
That promise, described in the film in great detail, is that Joseph Kony will be captured and brought to justice for his crimes.