January 11, 2008

Pete Wentz Held Hostage in Uganda for 75 Cents


Posted by guest blogger Kenny Laubbacher, filmmaker and activist with Invisible Children (Photograph of Kenny, with microphone, after his screening of "Emmy" at Mountainfilm 2007)January 11, 2008Hey Guys,Last year I was extremely fortunate to be a part of the festival with a film called “Emmy: The Story of an Orphan.” “Emmy” is one the shorter documentaries created by the non-profit where I work: Invisible Children.Invisible Children is about the war in Uganda that’s been raging for 22 years. If you don’t know about it yet, you’re slipping!!! Check it out now: www.invisiblechildren.com.


Kenny filming in Uganda.

When they first asked me to write this blog, I was going to give the typical rundown of how to get involved and where the money goes, etc., but I wanted to share something with you guys that was a bit more personal. I wanted to use this space to tell you an insane story about my past summer in Uganda.As many of you know, IC is different than a lot of nonprofits because we sincerely believe in investing in the youth of America – empowering them and encouraging them to make a difference. Think about it: if everyone not only fights for this cause, but also for whatever else their hearts lead them to, this world is going to be an amazing place in a few years.With this mindset, there comes quite a few unconventional ways of raising awareness. Case in point: Over the past year or so, I’ve been blessed to meet some really sincere dudes from the pop band Fall Out Boy. If you don’t know about them yet, they’re HUGE right now and I guarantee you that your high school-aged daughter or niece not only knows about them, but is absolutely in love with one of the four members.


Fall Out Boy

We collaborated with these guys to produce a music video to spread the word about the war in northern Uganda to mainstream pop culture. This was a massive task. Shooting a pop video in a war-torn country about a war that's still happening in that area is a gnarly mission. We wanted to humanize the people it was referencing, stay creative and engaging for the audience, but still remain culturally relevant and sensitive to the people in Uganda. Whew. Wasn’t easy. http://www.invisiblechildren.com/fob/index2.html Anyways, somewhere near the beginning of the shoot I took the bass player, Pete Wentz, on an adventurous motorcycle trip through the countryside to show him the “real” Uganda! While on some back road, we ran into a group of 20 or so farmers who began to mob up and block off the road. We were forced to stop due to the shovels, picks, and slashers they laid on the road in front of us AND behind us. With gnarly, buff Ugandan farmers surrounding us and waving machetes in our faces, they demanded money in exchange for our release. I was the only one with any travel experience in this country, and my mind was blown by the way these people were acting. Normally everyone in that culture is extremely hospitable and welcoming. I guess it’s just the product of decades of war and poverty. If you see the chance to get some money, you better take it.Pete’s eyes were as big as saucers and he was dead quiet and just as pale. He kept giving me looks like “what the …” I was worried about paying them off with so many eyes on me because they’d think I was holding out on them. I had my own money in my left pocket, Pete’s money in my right pocket, and a fat production stash in my hoodie pocket—the equivalent of a few months’ pay.I tried to take control of the situation. I told the ring leader of the crew to hop on my bike so we could go talk. I lied to him about knowing some German guy he knew (I don’t even know how that came up), and he hopped on the back of my bike, machete and all. As we started to drive away, I noticed that Pete and the two others with us weren’t coming because they had these burly men holding onto their bikes not allowing them to move. When I stopped to make sure they were coming, the ring leader guy hopped off my bike and said he’s holding the others until we get him some money.


Which is more powerful?

As he was walking back he greeted an old man with the title LC1, which is basically the boss or landowner. I immediately hollered at the LC1 to come talk with me. This little man couldn’t have been happier. I told him that his people were being rude and not letting us pass. I told him I’d give him the money to disperse amongst his men, but he had to make sure they let us through. Not knowing what was going on, he was just super excited to be getting any sort of money and quickly agreed.I reached into my hoodie pocket to grab a bill, and decided that whatever bill it was, I’d give it to him and hope that it’d suffice. I pulled out a 5,000 schilling bill, handed it to him, and he dispersed the crowd. We zoomed out of there so fast! The weight that was just taken off of my shoulders made me feel like I was in love or something.I joke with Pete’s friends about that story because he’s in Forbes’s magazine, owns his own label, is in a huge band, etc. and I say, “How much do you think that guy is worth? Because on some back road in Uganda, I bought his freedom for the equivalent of about 75 cents!Editor's Note: Check out the Fall Out Boy/Invisible Children music video here.

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