Considering the horrific nature of the troubles that are currently tearing Darfur apart, it's amazing the documentary "Darfur Now" can remain so upbeat. A call to arms of sorts, raising awareness of the land, the people, and the possibility for change, this documentary is not intended to depress, but to ignite passion for all causes great and small.
"Darfur" is broken down into six stories, encompassing a range of perspectives. There's Pablo Recalde, leader of the World Food Program in West Darfur, who watches with great stress as his efforts to spread supplies around the nation are constantly thwarted by enemies; Adam Sterling, a young UCLA student driven to activism after comparing his grandmother's experiences in Nazi Germany to the genocide of Darfur; Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, a leader for internally displaced Darfurians; Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who hopes to secure arrest warrants for top Sudanese officials; Hejewa Adam, a mother forced into rebel action against Janjaweed militias when her son is beaten to death; and actor Don Cheadle, co-author of the book "Not On Our Watch," who exploits his star power and connections to bring Darfur to the masses.
As an educational tool, "Darfur Now" should be required viewing for audiences of all ages and levels of global awareness, as it slowly explains Sudan politics and the dawn of the Darfur conflict. The information is presented with clarity and directness, keeping the film stable enough to address the wide assortment of dangers facing the nation. It's simplification done tastefully, encouraging questions as a way to initiate discussion. Director Ted Braun isn't making an icy PBS-style documentary; instead he presents the observer with a multitude of viewpoints, touching all sides (even the Sudanese government) of the argument through slick editing and other cinematic gloss.
While avoiding outright horror with vivid genocide footage (the film is rated PG for audiences of all ages), "Darfur Now" nevertheless paints a disturbing portrait of a country lost in the throes of madness: the locals pray the outside world is hearing their pleas for help, while said world struggles to get involved with a country that doesn't want prying eyes. It's to Braun's immense credit that he can maintain each story's potency, capturing amazing footage of the subjects as they spend time focusing on Darfur either through violence or awareness. Obviously, the most attention is paid to Cheadle, who is shown traveling around the world with pal George Clooney. They use their celebrity to beat the media drum for Darfur, even stopping by Governor Schwarzenegger's office to help goose a bill along that would take California's financial interests out of Sudan. I'm sorry to report there's not a single Batman/Mr. Freeze joke made.
"Darfur Now" is made for general audiences either unaware or clouded when it comes to all things Darfur; that very simplicity is what makes the film a successful opportunity to rouse global responsibility. It's a positive movie, reminding the audience that there are still opportunities for change, and that every last bit of empathy counts. It's hard to argue with such ambitions, and at this point in their gloomy history, Darfur needs every last drop of attention possible.
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