Kony 2012 filmmaker Jason Russell opened up to Jenna Bush Hager on a segment that aired on Today Monday, discussing the meteoric rise of the YouTube documentary and his subsequent psychotic break.
Russell’s Kony 2012 was a passion project 10-years in the making, finding success as the most viewed viral video in history. Shortly after the documentary’s great success, filmmaker Jason Russell’s life very publicly unraveled. TMZ broke a story featuring a video of Russell seen naked on a San Diego street corner, pacing and screaming. His doctors determined that he had suffered a psychotic breakdown.
“My mind couldn’t stop thinking about the future,” Russell told Hager. “I literally thought I was responsible for the future of humanity. It started to go into a point where my mind finally turned against me and there was a moment where, click, I was not in control of my mind or my body.”
Despite the success of the film, Russell experienced professional troubles when the media revealed that thousands of action kits ordered from Invisible Children, the group behind the film, had gone unfilled and the charity’s website crashed.
“It was so chaotic,” Russell said. “I mean, it was so exciting because it felt like the world was for us. And then at the same time it was heartbreaking and felt almost like a nightmare, because it felt like the world was against us.”
Jacob Acaye, a 12-year-old Ugandan boy who had been abducted by the LRA, served partially as Russell’s inspiration for the film. Now 22-years-old and studying to be a lawyer, Acaye wondered whether Russell’s dedication to the cause of Invisible Children took a toll on his mental health.
“I saw myself being the cause of everything that was going on in his life,” Acaye told Hager. “I was like asking myself, what if I had not met him? What if I had not told him my story?”
Regardless, Russell withdrew from the public’s attention in order to recuperate:
“I mean, it’s hard for my wife to even talk about it still, because it was so scary and traumatizing,” Russell said. “It’s just been really spending time with my family. A lot of slowing down. You know, yoga. Therapy. And it’s been really healing for the mind, body, soul.”
Russell and Invisible Children have moved on with a Kony 2012 follow-up titled Move.
“I don’t think anything can compete with the perfect storm of Kony 2012, but we do hope that millions of people do see this next film and know that we are still committed,” Russell said.
Here’s the video of Jason Russell discussing Kony 2012 and his public breakdown via Today: