American journalists in Sudan are confronted with the dilemma of whether to return home to report on the atrocities they have seen, or to stay behind and help some of the victims they have encountered.
Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.
The struggles and achievements of six individuals bring to light the situation in Darfur and the need to get involved. From a UCLA graduate in Los Angeles, California, to a Darfurian woman who joins rebel forces, to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, to a United Nations humanitarian on the ground in Sudan, to an internationally known actor and activist, and finally to a community leader in a West Darfur refugee camp, the film portrays the efforts of six people responding to a humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our eyes. The film explores the Darfur conflict through the first-hand experiences of Don Cheadle, Hejewa Adam, Pablo Recalde, Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and Adam Sterling.Written by
Warner Independent Pictures
Since 2003, the people of Darfur - mainly tribal blacks - have been undergoing a systematic genocide at the hands of the largely Arab-run government of Sudan (Darfur being a western region of that nation). The UN has estimated that, as of 2007, 200,000 residents of Darfur have been slaughtered and 2.5 million more displaced from their homes and forced to flee to refugee camps both inside Darfur and in neighboring countries.
The must-see documentary "Darfur Now" focuses on six specific individuals who have chosen to make a difference in the world. Adam Sterling, co-founder of Sudan Divestment Task Force, is a young activist from Los Angeles who spends his time not only trying to raise public awareness of the atrocities taking place in that part of the world but also lobbying the California legislature and governor to get oil companies to stop funding the Sudanese government. Luis Moreno-Ocampo is a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court whose job it is to build a case against the Sudanese government officials in order to bring them to justice in The Hague. Ahmed Mohammad Abakar is the Chief Sheikh of the Hamadea Displaced Persons Camp. Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda") is, of course, a well-known movie star and author who has met with a number of world leaders on the issue. Pablo Recalde is a humanitarian who delivers food to people in the refugee camps, often at great personal risk to himself and those who work with him. And, finally, Hejewa Adam is a rebel for the Sudan Liberation Movement, a group dedicated to fighting back against the killers.
All six share a common belief that what happens to one person on this planet happens to us all - and it is this philosophy that motivates them to take an active role in doing everything they can to try and change that world.
Survivors of the raids recount in horrific detail the inconceivable suffering they have endured at the hands of the Janjaweed, an Arab militia unit funded by the government to carry out rapes, pillaging and murder on a massive scale (though the government, of course, denies it). We also spend time with the rebel forces - motley bands of dedicated but poorly armed and trained men and women who have taken to the hills to defend their lives and homeland, while they wait patiently and, in many cases, in vain for the "white people" to come and help them.
Writer/director Theodore Braun effectively cuts back and forth between his various subjects and, in so doing, brings an emotionally compelling dramatic arc to the film.
More than anything else, "Darfur Now" drives home how monumentally difficult and frustrating it can be to get recalcitrant people to put aside their daily concerns or foot-dragging governments their political expediency in order to help put an end to any humanitarian crisis, not just the one in Darfur. But, at the same time, the film points out that people of goodwill, particularly if they are large enough in number, can have an enormous impact if they are simply willing to step up to the challenge.
Filled with both hope and heartbreak, "Darfur Now" is a fit companion piece to "The Devil Came on Horseback," an equally compelling documentary on the same topic. Together, these two fine films help to bring Darfur's plight to the world-at-large.
The theme of both films is, perhaps, best summed up by the actor George Clooney who, in a press conference on the issue, asks, "One day this will end, and the question will be, where did the nations of these United Nations stand?" Where indeed!
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