A: Apparently all of them.

Ben Affleck has joined the swelling ranks of celebrities out to save Africa, and he’s doing it by producing a TV report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His documentary aired as an episode of “Nightline” on Thursday June 26th.  You can watch it in its entirety on the “Nightline” website.

[Filming in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo]

Affleck visited DRC three times within the past year, as part of what he defines as,

a long and ongoing learning experience to educate myself before making any attempt to advocate or speak out.

Oddly enough, his learning experience in DRC is what the documentary is all about. Mr. Affleck claims he’s out to “give exposure to voices which might not otherwise be heard.” Why then is he front and center in all of this? Ben Affleck is an Oscar winning actor who gets plenty of exposure, so why not try simply narrating or directing the film? “Nightline” executive producer James Goldston puts it this way,

The idea was to present the story as a personal journey, following Affleck as he met with survivors of the conflict, relief officials, and even some warlords.

And that’s exactly what happened. Ben Affleck actually met with Laurent Nkunda, the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), officials from Medecins Sans Frontieres and the United Nations, and scores of rape survivors. The interviews do make for a compelling piece, but what about basic ethics? How is okay to interview a fourteen-year-old rape survivor on camera? Will this girl have access to support services if the interview causes trauma? ABC News which produces “Nightline,” is not known for having the best judgement when it comes to mixing celebrity with international affairs. For example, they let Leonardo DiCaprio interview President Clinton. By the way, my favorite part of the film was when Ben attempted to negotiate with the FDLR to leave Congo and go back to Rwanda. Sadly, he wasn’t successful.

In my opinion it seems like the best way to tackle an issue is to get educated and then take action. This film focuses on the getting educated phase, leaving viewers who have become engaged to wonder what they should do in the face of such a crisis. Even some links to the advocacy and volunteer organizations that Affleck shadowed would have been appropriate.

Watch the film and see what you think. I’m sure some people will learn a lot from it, and commend Mr. Affleck for his efforts. In the end, I do think it’s a positive thing to focus attention on the humanitarian situation in DRC, even if the spotlight has to be shared with a celebrity.

Here are links to some organizations working in Democratic Republic of Congo. You can make monetary donations to all of them, and some of them have suggestions for how to fundraise, advocate, and pressure our government on issues related to DRC.

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