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The Devil Came on Horseback - documentary DVD review
THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Starring: Brian Steidle
Directors: Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg   Studio: International Film Circuit/Break Thru Films
DVD release: 30 October 2007   Runtime: 85 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Subtitles (Arabic), Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Bonus short film: "Supporting Survivors" by Global Grassroots, Take Action Save Darfur, Trailer

Brian Steidle was a captain in the Marine Corps facing the possibility of riding a desk after his four-year enlistment was up. He decided to take a job as a military observer in Sudan. This was 2004. Here he was to monitor a fragile cease-fire between the primarily Muslim north and the Christian south. Armed only with a camera, he was not allowed to intervene. Meanwhile, in the Western region of Darfur, a separate conflict was evolving. The people in Darfur want a little of what the rest of Sudan is getting - economic development, a role in this government, to share in the Sudanese Capital Khartoum's wealth and resources.

Khartoum doesn't want Darfur to enjoy such equity. Two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), were fighting for the people of Darfur, fighting for education and property rights. In April of 2003, rebels attacked an airport in Darfur. The government responded by closing off Darfur, throwing out all foreigners, and beginning the systematic killing of everyone in Darfur. The Sudanese government trained the Janjaweed and employed them to carry out the exterminations. Janjaweed translated means "Devil on a Horse." That's the Reader's Digest version, and something I'd not known before seeing this film.

Brian took pictures of the carnage and wrote reports to superiors, thinking America would come to the rescue. America did not. Brian helplessly witnessed the aftermath of human slaughter. It's genocide, though it took America a few years to call it that officially. Brian couldn't stay on, helpless to save these people who saw him as the first of all the thousands of American troops they expected to follow. He left after six months.

Brian brought his stories and pictures, thousands of pictures, to the U.S. and met up with New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, who helped Brian to tell his story. Even now he tells his story, as America does nothing to stop this madness.

The Devil Came on Horseback is a hard film to watch, but it should be watched. The actions of the Sudanese government are no different from the actions of the Nazis during the Second World War. The difference is, we're not declaring war. Our troops are not on their way to Darfur where they're so desperately needed. Watch this film. You can borrow my copy. Write your Congress members. Write the president. Do something.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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