Directed by Ted Braun. (2007, PG, 99 min.)
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Dec. 7, 2007
The world can be a terrifying place. No doubt there. But the question is: What are you going to do about it? The filmmakers behind Darfur Now (including director Braun and producer Don Cheadle) would have their movie be a call to arms against the devastating conflict in Darfur. Sadly, you’re better off doing your own research or visiting SaveDarfur.org. For all the film’s rallying efforts, its meandering structure and absence of a central driving character results in a film about genocide that is, as unbelievable as it sounds, kind of boring. Rushing through the history of the conflict, which officially began in 2003, the movie informs us that the Sudanese government began funding armed militants called Janjaweed in its effort to clear tribes of people from western Sudan. To date, as many as 400,000 civilians have been killed and up to 2.5 million Darfuris have been forced to leave their homes and now live in camps throughout Darfur. The film follows the stories of six people around the world, all involved with the crisis. The varied characters include a 24-year-old activist working in California in the divestment campaign, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the head of a refugee camp in Darfur, the leader of the World Food Programme team in West Darfur, and a rebel fighter. By far the most provocative story is that of the young mother whose 3-month-old son was beaten to death by Janjaweed militias and has since joined the rebel forces. Braun’s camera gained astounding access to the rebel camps as the soldiers march, train, and vent their intense anger. The interviews with this beautiful young woman as she sits with a massive machine gun in her lap are surreal and heartbreaking. Additionally, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo proves a compelling character. But while either of these characters could potentially carry a film, their roles are limited, and the movie never evokes genuine knowledge of them as people. In effect, they become symbols. And it’s pretty difficult to empathize with a symbol, especially over the course of an entire feature film. Additional stories involving Cheadle (sometimes accompanied by George Clooney) and the Californian activist are vaguely inspiring. But while it's commendable that Cheadle and Clooney travel the world to promote awareness of the Darfur conflict, it doesn’t necessarily make for a good 10 minutes of film.