Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Devil Came on Horseback -- documentary about Darfur in Sudan

The non-profit Avalon Theater in NW Washington DC has been showing the documentary “The Devil Came on Horseback,” (the word "Janjaweed" from Arabic for the attacking groups) about the genocide in Darfur, an area of western Sudan. The film is distributed by the International Film Circuit, with “Break Thru Films” as the production company, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, and it has been presented at Sundance. Each day this week, the theater has presented a speaker from the Darfur effort. Tonight the speaker was Adam Sterling, from the Sudan Divestment Task Force.

The film is shown through the eyes of former Marine captain and freelance photographer Brian Steidle. The country reached a “peace” between northern (Arab Muslim) and southern (black Christian) areas, but the Sudanese government has always been hostile to the native peoples in the western Darfur area. Other than tribal power, the motives are not that clear. Steilbe, working as an unarmed photographer, was able to get unbelievable footage of the carnage, which is visually beyond description. Technically, the film (1.85 to 1) is stunning (on real film or HD, with sharp Digital stereo), with panoramic scrub desert scenery around the Nuba Mountains, with the primitive conditions in the villages shown close-up. It’s not apparent how Steidle could such an accomplished film crew into essentially a civil war zone. He would come back, present his pictures to the New York Times, and gradually attract international attention, including meetings with the U.N. and the Bush Administration. He would go back, visit Chad and Rwanda, and begin to feel “guilty” not being able to be in combat again. Finally he would help organize rallies, as on the Mall. His website is Global Grassroots. Also visit "Save Darfur".

There is a considerable effort to pressure other countries (especially China and Malaysia) profiting from oil business in Sudan, as well as many private American and international companies, to withdraw from business in Sudan as long as the genocide goes on.

Update: Nov. 9, 2007

Warner Independent Pictures has released Darfur Now, directed by Ted Braun, produced by Participant, 99 min, PG, and it started in Washington DC tonight at Landmark's E Street Cinema only.

Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his promise of "no more movies." As governor, he appears in this one, promising that California pension funds will not be used to support genocide in the Sudan. Actor Don Cheadle plays a prominent role in the film, (a clip from UA's "Hotel Rwanda" is shown) with George Clooney; they travel to China (which buys a lot of Sudan's oil) and Cairo to put international pressure on the Sudan.

This film is more of a Hollywood professional film. More of it takes place outside Darfur. But it tells a particularly interesting story of two college students from LA, who take to the streets to raise money for the Darfur issue. One of the guys says he had never approached people in public before. Later there is a conversation with an African American who helps them put their spiels in terms of union solidarity. There are jobs like this now, where people approach others in shopping malls or other public spaces to raise money for charities by "selling" excess restaurant meals or hotel rooms.

Update: 11/21/2007

On Nov. 20, 2007 PBS Frontline aired "On our Watch", directed by neil Dochtery (60 min) to further explore the crisis in Darfur. The show mentioned gross genital mutilations during the raids. The professor activist Eric Reeves, and his web site sudanreeves, was presented. The activism of actress Mia Farrow, with her multiple trips and op-eds that have "eclipsed" the rest of her life, was shown. The United States and UN have been slow to offend China for political and economic reasons (for China's complicity with the Sudan oil business), but activists want to present the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as "The Genocide Olympics". There is more talk on how international law should be invoked on sovereign countries that commit "war crimes" against their own citizens.

Update: June 19, 2008

See writeup of news story on propaganda music in Sudan and video "Singing for Peace," on International issues blog (see profile) today.

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