Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The Devil Came on Horseback
I wonder how many people in this world know about Darfur conflict, and I wonder how many care about the suffering and genocide in that region. I was hoping the new documentary "The Devil Came on Horseback" will bring the brutality and urgency of this crisis to Americans, or to the world, depending on where the film will be shown. But, I am disappointed.
"The Devil Came on Horseback" (USA 2007, 85 min. opens on August 24 in Bay area theatres) is narrated by former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, who went to Darfur as a member of the African Union team monitoring the conflict in Darfur during 2004-2005.
Mr. Steindle carried pen, paper, and a camera, but no weapon. Does that mean Darfur is safer than Iraq?
He took hundreds of pictures to document the devastating situation in Darfur. But according the film, he seems to have trouble to use these photos to gain awareness about the genocide in Darfur, even he showed them to the Secretary of State and published a few in New York Times.
Apparently, neither the film knows how to do with these photos and his story either.
In the documentary, investigations stop short and lack of depth and intelligence. We all see the horrific pictures Mr. Steindle took. We ask who did this and under whose command. How do we connect the dots between these frighten images with the Sudanese government? Why is the international community, including the US government turns a blind eye to the crisis in Darfur? It seems these photos can lead to so many investigations, such as why the US government asks Mr. Steindle not to show these photos.
We do not get answers for these questions in this film. Instead, we hear more about how frustrated Mr. Steindle is. Because he doesn't have weapons and soldiers that enable him to fight like he used to be in the U.S. Marine; and because the entire world doesn't seem care or believe that he is telling.
For people who don't know the background of the Darfur conflict, I doubt that this film will help them to gain much insight on who is fighting whom and why the international community should get involved. There is very little intellectual discussion in the film. After all, Mr. Steindle is a soldier, not a journalist.
That's why I am disappointed with the film. All it is doing is to shock me by flashing some images that seem out of focus.
So, I decided to check out these photos online. I figure that if I were like Mr. Steindle who is so passionate about telling the world about the genocide in Darfur, I would put all these pictures online and expose them to the entire world. What would be a better way to raise awareness in Darfur than make all his pictures available to the world to see?
I was hoping I could find some statements saying that parts of the proceed of the book sale will go to Darfur relief. But I didn't.
However that is entirely a different matter; and it has little to do with how I view this documentary as a documentary.