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Looking for more than nothing

"Looking for more than nothing" Continued...

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

In a memorable scene of dressed-up impotence, world leaders at the UN's 2004 General Assembly rise for a moment of silence to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rwanda's holocaust, even as deaths in Darfur clocked 6,000 a month and over 1 million already had been forced from their homes.

The documentary properly showcases experts like Reeves and UN underlings who first revealed the Sudan government's role in mass killings. It glaringly omits key U.S. officials, advocates like ambassadors to the UN John Danforth and John Bolton, who fought a battle few leaders, really, seem to want to win. -Mindy Belz

The Devil Came on Horseback

Limited release, not rated

Ex-marine Brian Steidle volunteered to help the African Union monitor a north-south ceasefire in Sudan, and soon found himself doing the same in Darfur. "Welcome to hell," an American told him when he first landed there. Only later did Steidle understand what that meant.

Here we see genocide through the eyes of an American witness, whose horrified reactions show us what we might feel if we saw Darfur firsthand. Steidle barely can restrain his Marine's impulse to fight and protect. But, as he reminds viewers, he was allowed only pen and camera.

Over months he photographed village after torched village attacked by Khartoum's proxy militias, the janjaweed, or "devils on horses." When he returned to the United States, his hundreds of photographs gave the West some of its first evidence of Darfur's genocide ("Spectator to genocide," April 2, 2005).

As the conflict evolves, so does Steidle. He mocks himself for believing his photos would immediately launch a legion of international peacekeepers. He ruefully reminisces about his original plans for life: to retire by 35 and sail the world. He searches desperately for ways to help until his tired eyes give way to tears. "I stood there for six months and I watched people die," he says. "And I took pictures of them."

Uncomfortably familiar in The Devil Came on Horseback is the meta-narrative of the smallness of the individual amidst an engulfing, impersonal evil. Two years after Steidle started his campaign to save Darfur, little has changed on the ground. He is a thwarted rescuer, and his story adds poignancy to an awful crisis. -Priya Abraham


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