What is Darfur?
That’s a question that does not get asked as much as it should. An easy answer: “Have you seen Hotel Rwanda?” Yes. “Basically the same thing is happening again in a different part of Africa and not enough is being done to stop it.” Wow, are you serious?
Serious as a heart attack and the star of that film, Don Cheadle, is serious also, as he is one of the co-stars along with George Clooney in the new Ted Braun documentary Darfur Now. Stevie Wonder wrote the feature song “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and he gets performing assistance from none other than Bono himself.
While there are celebrity appearances, this film is mostly made up of people the audience does not know. It takes a look at the Genocide from six different viewpoints, including Cheadle’s. At the same time, the audience gets to finally see the results of a demise of a culture in this poor land.
Cheadle was aware of the conflict going on, but like most people, wasn’t sure how to get involved. Eventually, he decided to put his celebrity status to good use. We follow him and Clooney to Egypt and China in their efforts to pressure government officials into action. He says that the fact that he and Clooney are the highest delegation to meet with these powers-at-be “is just embarrassing.”
There are many refugee camps set up throughout Darfur and the living conditions are harsh. Women tell tales of sometimes being raped or beaten when they venture off to get fresh water from a well. One woman who is putting down her foot is Hejewa Adam. When her village was attacked, her infant son was killed by the Janjaweed rebels in front of her own eyes. Now she has been trained to fight back as a rebel herself. She tells the women in her brigade “The white man will come and help us. International soldiers will remove the threat.” It’s a dim hope, but you can feel the hope with her.
Pablo Recalde has the difficult task of trying to help feed the hundreds of thousands of refugees. He takes the viewer on a ride through the lands of dust and camels for a first hand look, though he is cautious and knows when to turn the camera off. After one particular three day voyage of food delivery, he rejoices at not getting shot at. Success.
Perhaps an even more stressful and trying job is taken up by Ahmed Mohammed Abakar. He emulates Cheadle’s character in Hotel Rwanda in that he is a Sheikh and he is in charge of holding a refugee community together. They come to him and scream with their frustrations and problems. In one scene he is listening to a radio station to see if he knows any of the names being announced of recently deceased persons. There turns out to be over 200.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. His job is to prove the evil and bring responsible parties to justice for the crimes that are “allegedly” being committed. “Allegedly” that is, because the Sudanese government and Janjaweed officials claim that the Americans’ claim of genocide is “dramatized” and that it is merely just a war. He finally gets arrest warrants served, but the viewer won’t be surprised at the results.
The average person may not think that they can do much to make a real difference in Darfur. Adam Sterling is living proof that this is false. A restaurant worker by day, he helps to push people like Arnold Schwarzenegger into signing a pact to end funding by the state of California to businesses that support the Sudanese government. On the streets of California, Sterling is blown off by pedestrians as a solicitor when he tries to stop people and educate them.
The film shows bright spots like children in the refugee camps having fun and creating games, even if only using sticks. And the unity of women in these dire situations is overwhelming considering their restrictions. But the sad and frustrating truths of poverty, famine, beatings, rape and killings are certainly evident as well.
Many people have a grasp on the situation in Darfur and there is plenty to be learned. However, unless you’ve been there first hand, it’s difficult to really get a taste about life in that part of the world. The six people profiled in Darfur Now are courageous in their own rights and their travels, emotions and actions are well documented. This documentary actually takes you there!
No one knows what will happen to these six individuals or Darfur in general in the future. This is why the movie is called Darfur Now; because it educates on the problems occurring NOW. And hopefully it will serve as an inspiration to others to get involved and help to make a difference.