'Invisible Children' film about child abduction and abuse in Uganda may inspire permanent change
(image from http://www.ewu.edu)
On Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m., the New Life Church is screening a film called “Tony” that is said to be as “disgusting as it is inspiring” as the other films from the “Invisible Children” campaign. Their films are disgusting in that they depict the realities of child abduction and abuse in Uganda and ways the problem has as much to do with corrupt African militias and governments as it does with Western indifference and blindness.
But they’re inspiring in that they move viewers to get involved with the fight for children’s rights and open viewer’s eyes to the world as they’ve never seen it.
While we’ve all seen films, documentaries or fictional narratives that are meant to inform our understanding of struggling nations and youths around the world, few move people to action like these “Invisible Children” films reportedly do.
After talking to a handful of people about this movie, and whether or not they were going to see it, those who hadn’t seen it yet were like me: enthusiastic, but in that way that you’re excited for a Christmas gift you knew you were getting. However, those who had already seen it looked at me stoically when I asked if they were coming, sullen tones in their voices almost warning me against watching it if I wasn’t ready to listen to what it had to show me.
I was shocked by the reactions of those who’d seen it and how it really did disgust them as much as it inspired them. I didn’t know what they meant by me being “ready” to watch “Tony” either, and their unexpected reactions intrigued me.
After all, these kinds of stories are nothing new for Americans, especially those who attend churches like New Life. The church has ties to others in Latin America, Haiti and Africa that we’re continuously being inspired to help out and donate money to.
Alternative spring break trips (like those New Life funds) are ways that people our age help out struggling areas of the world. They have the potential to help generations of people, but even in these instances, I’m convinced that participants too often complete their tasks overseas and return home, to comfort, with little more than memories of that time I helped and a few more pictures to tag on Facebook.
I must say I think this because I myself have participated in these kinds of eye-opening trips, and seen these kinds of terrifyingly real films in the past and have been moved to do little more good than what I did in those moments. For instance, I helped build an apartment in Harlem with “Habitat For Humanity” when I was in high school, and, while the experience was genuinely rewarding in the moment, it didn’t inspire me to go anywhere else and do the same thing.
I’ve participated in AIDS walks and food drives, seen movies about child abuses in Africa, Brazil and even the United States, but these moments where I’ve felt genuinely connected and sympathetically in love with humanity have never really inspired me to do anything bigger.
That is, being inspired to change the world has yet to inspire me to start. It’s never really inspired me to change myself.
No matter how many times I cry watching “Blood Diamond,” “City of God,” “When the Levees Broke” or perhaps “Tony,” my emotional sympathy doesn’t really matter to the people doing the real suffering. I find myself moved in the moment I’m watching the film, building the house, posing for the picture, but don’t carry that experience back into my life once I get home.
I do the same thing when I discover evil in my life. I either realize them on my own or I have them shown to me — often angrily, by someone I’ve hurt — and, in that moment, I’m genuinely sorry for what I’ve done. But the next day I wake up and am no less likely to commit the same sin.
I do a good job of identifying my faults. It’s the turning from them that I don’t seem to do as readily. As cathartic it can be to cry during a movie, or feel “inspired” by it, even “disgusted” by it, to actually let an experience turn my life around is something that requires a faith strong enough to be based in my actions, not just my words.
Ultimately, I think films like those from “Invisible Children” are not meant to make us feel bad, or guilty or angry at the state of the world. They’re meant to be watersheds, turning points in our lives, after which nothing we do or think or say is ever the same because we’ve been awakened to a battle so epic that we decide it’s got to be worth everything we have.
I encourage you to challenge yourself next Monday, and come to New Life Church at 7 p.m. (on Washthenaw, across from The Rock) and let God give you a “point of no return” in the fight against the evil of this world. A way to repent and turn from possible blindness and evil in your own life, and the way you conceive of your place in the world. A way to come back to God, get going back in the right direction for a moment that — hopefully — lasts longer than a moment.
Ben Verdi is a man with a Bible and a laptop and a nasty curveball. He can be reached at email@example.com.