QU screens ‘Invisible Children’ documentary

Michael Plourd

Imagine being in your home when, without warning, you are abducted by a rebel group and forced to fight in a war. This scenario is a reality for many children in northern Uganda, a reality three filmmakers are bringing to the attention of Americans through their documentary “Invisible Children.”

A screening of the movie was held Monday in Alumni Hall by the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, the Albert Schweitzer Club and SHADES (Students Helping & Advocating Diversity Education). “Invisible Children” tells the story of three young Americans who become stranded in Uganda while traveling in Africa. There, the trio witnesses the rampant kidnapping of Ugandan children.

“The first time I watched it, I literally had tears streaming down my face,” Tammy DeCarter, president of the Quinnipiac chapter of Phi Alpha Theta said. “I thought it was incredible.”

Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey are the three filmmakers who tell the stories of children who have been abducted to fight for the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group in Uganda led by Joseph Kony. The stories the filmmakers tell are real accounts of children who have been abducted by the rebel group.

“The L[ord’s] R[esistance] A[rmy] uses religion saying they are the messengers of God to establish this theocracy against the Ugandan government and Kony claims to be a spirit medium,” Chris Weaver, president of the Albert Schweitzer Club and a Quinnipiac student said.

Millions of Ugandans have suffered because of the war between the Ugandan government and the Lord Resistance Army during the last 20 years. The rebel group has been losing support and has resorted to abducting children from villages to fight its war. The abducted children are abused, mutilated and tortured.

“The film begins with humor, but then it really blows your mind,” DeCarter said. “It’s so hard to watch this and not feel a thing.”

The Ugandan government has been trying to stop the abductions. It has placed almost 95 percent of northern Ugandans in internally displaced persons camps, which, are supposed to be protected by the government. But, many of these camps are left unprotected, leaving many children to become known as “Night Commuters.” These children flee to larger cities during the night, even in inclement weather, to avoid being abducted by the rebel group.

“There have been programs trying to reintegrate the children back into normal life, including a mentor program,” Weaver said. “There was also a Global Night Commute in America in which 80,000 people slept outside in an effort to help end the war.”

The children are not the only ones affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. People of all ages in northern Uganda were forced into the camps. The filmmakers themselves were even pursued by the rebel group at one point.

“They were actually being chased by the LRA, and because they are our age, I was watching this thinking how that could be me,” DeCarter said.

The film has been effective in educating people about the plight of the Ugandan children. Since its release, abductions have declined and campaigns against the rebel group have begun. The “Invisible Children” program has representatives who present the filmmakers’ story. These representatives often do not have enough money to afford hotel rooms. At Quinnipiac, students lent their dorm rooms to the representatives.

The group Invisible Children has started a bracelet campaign, similar to cyclist Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” bracelet effort. Proceeds of the bracelet aid Ugandans who have been impacted by the war. The bracelets also include the story of a war-stricken person.

The Invisible Children group employs thousands of displaced adults in Uganda to make these bracelets and distribute them internationally. Additional information about Invisible Children can be found at Invisiblechildren.com.