Russell and Kristen Bell in 2009
October 12, 1978 |
El Cajon, California, U.S.
|Residence||San Diego, California, U.S.|
|Alma mater||USC School of Cinematic Arts|
|Occupation||Film director, charity worker, activist|
|Known for||Kony 2012|
Board member of
|Invisible Children, Inc.|
|Spouse(s)||Danica Jones (2004–present)|
Jason Russell (born October 12, 1978) is an American film and theater director, choreographer, and activist who co-founded Invisible Children, Inc. He is the director of Kony 2012, a short documentary film that went viral in the beginning of March 2012. In the first two weeks it gained more than 83 million views on YouTube and became the subject of intensive media scrutiny and criticism. Its subject is the Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, his alleged war crimes, and the movement to bring him to the International Criminal Court.
Early life and education
Russell is the younger son of Sheryl and Paul Russell, co-founders of Christian Youth Theater, which Russell was part of as a child. Russell discussed acting in an interview when he was 13 years old: "That was my life. It was what everybody around me did. I didn't even think about it. I did my first show at 8, and I have done over 20 plays since. You can't do this if you don't like it. You have to commit yourself to it."
Russell, with Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole, created the Invisible Children organization in 2003 after they "traveled to Uganda and witnessed children camping out in the city of Gulu to avoid being kidnapped into the militia in their villages." With camera equipment obtained from eBay, they went to Africa as student filmmakers but had no plan for the focus of their intended documentary. According to Russell, the trip was inspired by the 1993 death of Dan Eldon, who had been beaten to death while trying to document the ongoing famine in Somalia.
After Russell's group reached the Sudan their caravan was attacked by the Lord's Resistance Army, forcing a retreat to Northern Uganda. In Gulu, Russell and the others interviewed and videotaped children who had to commute to the city every night to elude raids by the LRA on their home villages in Acholiland. During filming, the three men contracted malaria, but omitted covering their illness so that the documentary would remain focused on the children. The footage they shot resulted in the original Invisible Children documentary draft, which was first screened in June 2004.
Russell and others returned to Uganda for six months in 2005 to collect more interviews and documentation for the next Invisible Children documentary. In 2006, after the Washington D.C. screening of Russell and Poole's rough cut, the U.S. Congress approved discussion of the plight of the Acholi before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The 2006 Invisible Children: Rough Cut also won Russell, Bailey, and Poole the Pioneering Spirit Award at the 2007 Heartland Film Festival.
On March 15, 2012, at the height of the Kony 2012 video's viral popularity, San Diego police detained Russell for psychiatric evaluation during a public breakdown that was filmed and released online. Russell was subsequently hospitalized for several weeks. A statement by his family said the preliminary diagnosis was "brief reactive psychosis, an acute state brought on by extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration," as a result of the popularity of the campaign. The Hollywood Reporter described it as an "out of body experience"; Russell, in an interview, said "that's not who I am".
|Roseline: The Story of an AIDS Victim||2008|
|Together We Are Free||2009|
- California birth index
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- Scott R. Caseley (February 1, 2007). "Children at War". New England Film. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
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- Jenny Brown (October 2005). "Young Christian film team documents war-zone children". Christian Examiner. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
- Susan Ellis Washington (March 8, 2006). "State Dept: Crisis of abducted Ugandan children shown in documentary". US Federal News. Retrieved August 18, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Film Festival Concludes With 22,000 Attendees". Inside Indiana Business. October 30, 2007. Retrieved August 18, 2012.
- Nicole Urso, "Dance Fever", Los Angeles Magazine, December 2003, page 94-100
- "Theatrics put this duo in the spotlight – The San Diego Union-Tribune". Utsandiego.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- Orden, Erica (2011-10-18). "'Kony 2012' Director Jason Russell Detained After 'Meltdown' - Speakeasy – WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- "'Kony 2012' director suffered 'reactive psychosis,' family says". CNN.com. March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2012.