Yesterday, we went to see a special screening of the documentary Darfur Now. The film actually doesn’t open in DC until November, but we have special contacts that allowed us to go to a special early screening that included a Q&A with the director and some other folks involved in the film. The combination of location (Georgetown–far from nearly everything) and the weather (the first cold, rainy night of the fall) made the crowd small, but there was a good group of people in the theatre to watch the film.
The movie itself attempts to paint a broad picture of the situation in Darfur, as well as give examples of what is being done to address the situation. The director, Ted Braun, does this by profiling six people around the world who are actively engaged in working to end the conflict in Sudan and aid those who have been displaced. The panel after the film included Braun, one of the Darfurian translators, and Adam Sterling (executive director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force), one of the people profiled in the film. It was interesting to hear from them their perspective on making the movie as well as their perspective on the situation.
I would say Darfur Now ranks pretty high up there on the list of documentaries I have enjoyed (a caveat, that list may or may not be rather small). Braun managed to weave the actions of six different people together in an engaging way. One thing I especially appreciated about the film is that it was presented in a fairly non-biased manner. All parties have their say, Braun interviewed members of the Sudanese government, Sudanese rebels, actors, humanitarian aid workers, displaced Darfurians, and more. There is no narration telling you what to think, he leaves the decision-making and value judgement up to the viewer. In a world full of Michael Moore-esque documentaries, such an open perspective was quite refreshing.
The film was not all good, of course. I felt it could have been a bit shorter, there were times when I though it would be over, but there was still several more segments to go. It is probably average length for a documentary (a little over 1.5 hours) and there is certainly enough subject matter to fill the time, but it did drag a bit. Also, if you are not very familiar with the story of what is going on in Darfur, the film gives only a brief history lesson of the conflict. While Braun probably hopes (as do I) that most Americans have a basic understanding of the situation, based on some people I know, I’m sure that is not the case. Still, there are plenty of resources out there if you want to learn more.
When the movie opens everywhere in November, I’d strongly encourage people to go see it. It leaves you inspired to help (without being cheesy). More importantly, though, it reminds everyone of a topic that’s too often forgotten in the news cycles of Britney Spears, Iraq, and athletes using or not using steroids. Maybe if enough people see this movie, we’ll convince those in charge that something desperately needs to change in Darfur.
~ The GFF