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Sand and Sorrow
Executive produced and narrated by George Clooney Sand and Sorrow (2007) chronicles the Darfur tragedy as seen through the eyes of victims, politicians, and criminals. The meticulous analysis of key events involving the United States and the UN highlights facts which until recently were kept away from the public.
After gaining its independence in 1956 Sudan became a country where Arabs and Africans suddenly did not trust each other anymore. The pro-Arab government took the initiative in solving the issue by isolating the state from the outside world and giving power to the formidable janjaweed a.k.a "black riders" (a military group armed by the Sudanese government whose task was to cleanse the predominantly African Darfur from its non-Arab population). In an attempt to protect the region from the janjaweed in 2001 local tribal leaders formed the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) whose primary goal has been to fight back the pro-government militia forces.
With the emergence of the SLA however the government in Khartoum finally had a good excuse to finish off what they had planned - either convert the non-Arab population or force it to move into neighboring Chad. Denying involvement with the janjaweed the Sudanese armed forces attacked the SLA while the militia group began exterminating the African population.
In the meantime Sudan made a bold and well-calculated move in becoming an ally of the US and its war on terror. The CIA and the Bush administration were reportedly impressed by the information Sudan was supplying as they could not determine whether or not two million dead, non-Arab Sudanese, is a large enough number to declare that genocide is being committed (!)
And the cleansing continued.
Eventually the gruesome images, films, and documents that trickled out of Sudan became impossible to ignore. The UN stepped up, the US became concerned, and the Chinese struck a deal with the Sudanese government to export its oil (!)
This is the story of Darfur.
Sand of Sorrow is a gut-wrenching, full of graphic imagery, documentary whose only goal is to inform. Every single sentence here is well thought of and full of resonance, forcing the viewer to think, reflect on facts and numbers, most of which translate into human lives. George Clooney's narration is impeccable, guiding the viewer through history, religion, politics, and everything else the news-networks are either unwilling or not allowed to show you. Human rights activist John Prendergast, Harvard University Professor Samantha Power, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof do a tremendous job in deconstructing key political events of tremendous importance to the evolution of this horrific tragedy.
Official Film Site and Trailer:
How Does the DVD Look?
Even though the back cover for this HBO-distributed disc states that the film is presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 it is actually offered in its original 1.78:1. The print however isn't enhanced for widescreen TVs. This being said the quality of the presentation is very strong - there is plenty of archival footage here which looks quite good. It was difficult for me to determine, at least in a consistent fashion, what is and wasn't intended by the director (aside from the interviews) so my evaluation obviously is based on the overall look of the film material. And as mentioned above the footage does an adequate job of relating to the audience the message of its creators.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with an English DD track the audio treatment is very good. George Clooney's voice comes off the speakers in a terrific fashion - it is crystal clear and articulate. This being said I did not detect any hissing, pop-ups, drop-outs.
This DVD does not offer any supplemental materials.
An excellent documentary offering a number of interesting point of views, including that of those who are apparently seen as responsible for the genocide in Darfur, Sand and Sorrow comes highly recommended. After Rwanda one would think that the world had learned an important lesson, unfortunately, it is now obvious that those capable of preventing such tragedies from repeating simply do not care.