Is “KONY 2012” a documentary?

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P.O.V.’s blog has an interesting analysis of the viral phenomenon of KONY 2012, the 30-minute film on Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony that’s been viewed more than 80 million times since it was posted on YouTube and Vimeo on March 5, written by guest blogger Heather McIntosh of Documentary Site.

Invisible Children, the advocacy organization that produced the film, “labels KONY 2012 a documentary, and it is one that falls squarely into the propaganda/persuasion traditions developed in the work of Frank Capra, Leni Riefenstahl, and Pare Lorentz,” McIntosh writes. “But KONY 2012 pushes the boundaries of these traditions. It attempts to go for the heart strings and not just tickle them but instead rip them out and stomp on them. The emotional appeals throughout this piece often overwhelm, and they run the risk of alienating a more questioning audience.”

One commenter identified as “Dr. Doc” pointed out: “As a documentary filmmaker, I am disappointed to see the KONY 2012 video included in my genre, especially on this site. It is many things: an advocacy piece, a motivational speech, a stemwinder, and an emotionally-charged, very personal fundraising trailer. However, it falls far short of certain journalistic standards to which documentary filmmakers must adhere, even with our comparatively greater degree of freedom to adopt a particular perspective than traditional news reporting.”

UPDATE: More on KONY 2012 from The Takeaway on Public Radio International.

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