Documentary Review: “The Devil Came on Horseback”, co-directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, chronicles how Sudan’s Arab government and its Janjaweed militias have systematically destroyed villages and displaced, raped, tortured, and killed Darfur’s black African citizens since 2003. The story is told through the eyes of former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle who was transformed from “soldier-assigned-a-mission” to “activist-on-a-mission”. His old cause was taking pictures to make a few extra dollars. His new one is waking up the American people and American government to wield its unique power. The documentary includes factual background information behind the unfolding of the genocide, graphic photographs depicting the worst of atrocities, and perhaps most importantly, rarely-heard voices from displaced Darfur survivors. Like the photographs, this documentary simply cannot be ignored.
Post-Screening: After the viewing, a panel discussion ensued of guests who have been intimately involved in the trenches of raising awareness and spurring action. John Prendergast who along with “actor-vist” Don Cheadle (see news video) co-authored the book, Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, said: “if America spent one quarter of 1% as much effort diplomatically as it does with regard to Iraq, we can end the genocide in Darfur overnight”. He mentioned that such a US led multilateral effort should include Sudan trading partners such as China and France. So what’s the problem? The more I listened, the more I realized that I was definitely part of it. He stated: “Unless we have a constituency of Americans continually urging their local congressmen to make Darfur an urgent priority, nothing is going to change”. Co-director Sundberg expressed optimism around the documentary’s scheduled June 26th screening for US congressional members. She hopes that the screening will help lead to a “tipping point where awareness turns into action”. She added that this all depends on whether those congressmen even show up to the viewing, which in turn, is dependent on whether people in their districts urge them (1-800-436-6243).
Personal Reflection: I have seen many documentaries on genocide and human atrocities. Movies too. Hotel Rwanda? Killing Fields? Roots? Schindler’s List? Been there, done that, and after each time I incredulously asked: "how did all the 'good people' allow this to happen?" “The Devil Came on Horseback” was different. The others were always past tense. This one is “in progress” or as Prendergast puts it “genocide in slow motion”. So what if President Clinton could have made good on what he admits today to be his biggest presidential mistake (that’s Rwanda, not Monica)? And what if we could turn back the clock and intervene at the Holocaust’s “3 million dead” marker? No need for time machines. From what I learned yesterday, each American can still play the role of Oskar Schindler. Prendergast calls it “moving from a bystander to an upstander”. Sounds like a good move to me. Like most of our elected officials, I have been far too quiet on this. However, when it comes to fighting for "the side of right", I'd always rather show up late, than not at all. Even still, it should not have taken a documentary for me to get focused. Everyone should see "The Devil Came on Horseback", but no one should wait for it to act. And no, I have no idea how many hits Derek Jeter got last night.
What Now? The amount of Darfur citizens driven from their homes equal THREE Katrinas, the amount of deaths far exceed ONE HUNDRED “9-11s”, and the percentage of screening audience members who wanted to do more was 100%. Thankfully, all members were handed a “TAKE ACTION NOW” card before they left which I will now share with you.
This information has been reprinted below verbatim.
TAKE ACTION NOW
1) SPEAK OUT
-- Check out your elected leaders’ record on Darfur: www.darfurscores.org
-- Call the President, Congress, and your governor: 1-800-GENOCIDE (436-6243)
Demand: Immediate UN intervention in Darfur
Unrestricted Access for Humanitarian Aid
No-fly zone and economic and military sanctions
2) TAKE ACTION
-- Divest in Companies doing Business in Sudan www.sudandivestment.org
-- Contact the Save Darfur Coalition: www.savedarfur.org
Learn how to generate media coverage, lobby elected leaders and pressure the international community to do more to help the people of Sudan.
3) LEARN MORE
-- The Devil Came on HorsebackSee the film: www.thedevilcameonhorseback.com
Read the book: www.publicaffairsbooks.com/steidle.html
-- Enough www.enoughproject.org
Enough uses field and policy analysis and strong policy advocacy to empower a growing activist movement to stop and prevent genocide
4) SUPPORT CHANGE
-- Global Grassroots: www.globalgrassroots.org
Global Grassroots offers training and seed funding to help women genocide survivors launch social projects. Proceeds from this film will help Darfur refugee women rebuild
-- Three Generations: www.threegenerations.org
Three generations is compiling evidence of genocide in Darfur, especially through the making of this film. Make ending genocide a personal commitment.
-- Join HOPE: www.hopemusicfund.org
The HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Music Campaign empowers individuals to take action on Darfur through music.