Black Sunday,” a film about displacement camps in Northern Uganda, moved half of the Whitman audience to tears and the other half to frustration with its MTV styled activism. African Awareness, a club that formed after last year’s screening of the prequel, brought the Invisible Children tour group to campus last Thursday.
The film is meant as a follow-up to “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a film made in 2003 by three young filmmakers from Southern California. “Invisible Children” detailed the conflict, showing Northern Uganda’s night commuters and child soldiers. The success of the film led the three film-makers to form Invisible Children, Inc., a non-profit created “to give compassionate individuals an effective way to respond to the situation.”
But some Whitman students found the new film problematic.
“The first ‘Invisible Children’ kind of started off as an adventure into the other world of Africa and then they turned that around into a really interesting and compassionate examination of the human rights issues of Uganda; however, this movie felt quite paternalistic…It felt like the movie was spliced together but they’d cut out the body and content,” said sophomore Seth Bergeson.
“Black Sunday” skipped over the details of the conflict, instead focusing on the story of one displaced child named Sunday. The film begins with Bobby Bailey, one of the original film-makers, deciding to return to Uganda and live in a displacement camp for 10 days to build support for a rally in the U.S. called “Displace Me.”
For the past 21 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel movement led by Joseph Kony, has been waging a war against the Ugandan government. An estimated 90 percent of the LRA troops are abducted children. “The Invisible Children: Rough Cut” focused on these abductions.
Since 2003 these abductions have almost stopped as a result of a temporary truce between the LRA and the Ugandan government. Now that peace is in sight, a greater focus is being placed on the aftermath of the conflict, namely the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps that house the majority of Northern Uganda’s population.
“Black Sunday” focused on the displacement camps. These camps have been in place since 1996 when the Ugandan government forcibly removed roughly 1.5 million individuals to live in overcrowded camps in hopes of providing protection against LRA attacks. But these camps are full of poverty, disease and starvation.
The film showed Bailey and the other Americans as they ate rats, cemented their hut with manure and slept on straw mats. Sunday, an intelligent young boy who wants to be a doctor, was the star of the movie. At the end of the film, Sunday invited Americans to “help us see peace.”
The film then switched back to America where in April 2007 more than 68,000 individuals gathered in 15 cities across the United States to experience for one night what it was like to be displaced. They left their homes and “displaced themselves for the displaced in Northern Uganda.”
While the film did interview a few human rights leaders who spoke about the issue, it left many in the audience wanting more details about the conflict before they felt they could truly advocate for change.
“I would it have liked it to explain a little more… For activists you have to be educated to make an educated letter or arguments afterwards. At this point you can argue from the heart but you can’t really know the full context of what you’re trying to participate in,” said senior Kate Farrington.
One of the Invisible Children “Roadies,” Josh Orr, responded to the suggestion that “Black Sunday” didn’t provide enough background, saying that it is meant as a sequel and that it is the type of film that people want to see.
“It’s meant to be done as a follow-up. We’re trying to reach younger generations or even a lot of people, if you just throw out a bunch of stats about Africa and don’t bring it to a single individual, it doesn’t work,” said Orr.
Orr spoke after the film, encouraging the audience to write letters to their representatives urging for an end to the war and the appropriation of $25 million toward rebuilding Northern Uganda.
Claire Lueneburg, president of African Awareness, was happy with the film and the turnout.
“I think that the goal of Invisible Children is to popularize it because that’s how we engage young people, we play popular music and by being funny and if that’s what it takes to get people to stay out there and write letters to their Senators then that’s great. I think that the Whitman audience is a lot more educated than the average high-schooler and I think that’s where a lot of this [movie] is taking place, in high schools,” said Lueneburg.
For more information, visit InvisibleChildren.com.