Saturday, February 6, 2010
The Devil Came on Horseback
Wow. I've been meaning to see The Devil Came on Horseback (Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, 2007) for a while. Tonight a year+ old article in Harpers, Nick McDonell's "The activist: Alex de Waal among the war criminals," left me wanting to make more sense of the situation in Darfur, and this film certainly helped with that. I was at first skeptical that Brian Steidle, an ex-Marine and African Union hired monitor of a ceasefire in Sudan in 2004, was our entrée to this situation. But, as I came to learn, he was in fact the one to expose this situation to the world, starting with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. In an op ed piece, Kristof published some of the thousands of photographs that Steidle took, along with his account of the genocide occurring in Darfur. The story burst out from there, but somehow not enough, and that is part of the puzzle that this documentary leaves its viewers pondering and the inaction it leaves viewers wanting to react against.
The story is absolutely horrifying, a call to action against a genocide full of the worst atrocities you can imagine. I suppose that is exactly why Steidle's photos are so important to the story (in a way that reminded me of Rory Kennedy's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib or Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure). They are proof, they are undeniable, they are terrible, they are haunting. Equally disturbing is the frustration Steidle expresses in his inability to get the world to react in a meaningful way to the genocide. ...