Josh Elwell, Danica Russell
Invisible Children, children of Uganda and a group of U.S. Teens
In 2004, a grassroots documentary invaded the worldwide web and, in the process, became an electronic and cultural phenomenon that became an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of war-torn Uganda's children. The documentary, "Invisible Children," was seen by five million viewers and despite it's roughcut photography garnered awards around the world. The grassroots non-profit that grew out of the experience also inspired a nationwide fund-raising contest in high schools to raise $1,000,000 to help rebuild Ugandan schools destroyed in the nation's civil conflicts.
"GO" is the story of this contest's winners, several of whom were selected to go on a trip to Uganda to experience the country for themselves.
The joy of "GO" is that it so beautifully reflects the organization's stated values of recognizing the inherent value of every child. The recent documentary "American Teen" presented the everyday lives of the cliques that many teens grow up with in high school..."GO" does just the opposite. In "GO," we see the West Coast princess, the inner-city black, the small town girl and several others transcend their stereotypes in ways that are simply mesmerizing and nothing short of inspiring.
Likewise, director Laren Poole beautifully captures the common ground that lies between these multicultural Americans and their Ugandan counterparts. Seldom has the truth been so beautifully portrayed right alongside moments of complete and utter joy.
Tears of joy flowed alongside tears of sorrow for those in the film and for this writer. Hours after having left the theatre, I find myself remembering the words, the faces, the expressions and the actions of these young people, all of whom seem to have surrendered themselves to this experience with enthusiasm, compassion and, yes, courage to face painful truths.
While the cinematography in "GO" is beautiful, it is the young people themselves who make this film shine. In filming a world in which there is so much pain, poverty and hopelessness, director Laren Poole and writers Josh Elwell and Danica Russell have turned hopelessness inside out and shown the hope that is born when a group of young people band together to create a better world and then "GO."
CRITIC'S NOTE: After this review was written, "GO" was named the winner of Heartland's "Audience Award" for Best Short.