Eye For Film >> Movies >> Darfur Now (2007) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
If the recent Triage, about humanitarian work in Sudan and Rwanda, was a natural companion piece to Shake Hands With The Devil, then Darfur Now makes a perfect, if deeply concerning accompaniment to The Devil Came On Horseback, a documentary that told the story of one man’s efforts to put the genocide in Darfur onto the public agenda in America.
Where Horseback focussed on one man’s mission, Darfur Now shows the breadth of humanitarian effort being put in to stop the suffering in the beleagured area of Sudan. It is here, where, since 2003, violence has raged, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 people, a huge proportion of whom were civilians, and forcing a further 2.5 million to flee their homes.
Director Ted Braun, tracks six very different people – Ahmed Maohammed Abakar, a refugee camp leader, Hotel Rwanda actor/activist Don Cheadle, female rebel fighter Hejewa Adam, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, World Food Programme team leader in West Darfur Pablo Recalde and Adam Sterling, a galvanised US activist. Each are tackling the crisis in their own way, but all are crucially important.
In many ways it is heartening, particularly after seeing Brian Steidle struggling to make his voice heard on Capitol Hill on the subject of the genocide in Sudan, to see that, in fact, there are many people trying to make a difference. Abakar and Recalde are lending their energies to helping those on the ground, bringing solace, solidarity and important food aid to the displaced, despite the ever-present threat of the Janjaweed (literally "devil on a horse").
Back in the US, Cheadle, alongside other high-profile campaigners, such as George Clooney, is trying to throw his celebrity weight behind the cause, while many ordinary citizens, like Adam Sterling, are finding their own ways to make their voices heard. In his case it is by pushing a bill through the Californian State legislature to divest California of its investment in Sudan, thereby applying monetary pressure to a government which the UN says is funding the genocidal attacks by the Janjaweed.
In Europe, plans are afoot to bring those in government, who bear responsibility for what is happening, to justice, as Moreno-Ocampo, painstakingly gathers evidence to present to a judge about the bureaucrats who sanction the slaying. All the while, back in Darfur, Hejewa Adam is training to kill, in an attempt to protect her tribe until the West sends help.
In some ways, this is much more of a call to action than Horseback, since it shows how even those who seem to have little influence can make a change, As Cheadle says, “What can I do? More than nothing. A lot more than nothing.” However, its overall argument is, perhaps, less detailed than that seen in the documentary about Steidle's struggle, where more evidence, much of it shocking, is presented to give the viewer a clear idea of what is at stake. Contrary to this approach, Braun's film relies on testimony from those who have experienced the violence, with little in the way of graphic imagery, which makes it more likely to get a television outing, or be used in schools.
There are problems, however, most particularly with the scoring, which is used unnecessarily and distractingly over the top of some of the interviews and seem to "cheapen" the action. There is also a difficulty with its breadth, meaning that despite good editing from Edgar Burcken and Leonard Feinstein, there is only the briefest run through the history of the conflict. This lack of context means that, although going a long way as a call to arms, those without prior knowledge of the issues may find it hard to engage with.
Despite these flaws, Darfur Now is still a powerful testimony to the changes that may come when people make an effort to let their voices be heard.
If you can’t make it to a screening during the Human Rights Watch Festival and you want to find out more about Sudan, make sure you catch The Devil Came On Horseback when it gets its UK release on March 28.Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2008