THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK (Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern, U.S.). 88 minutes. Friday (April 20), 7 pm, Royal; Sunday (April 22), 2:30 pm, ROM. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
"Welcome to hell."
These are the words that greet Captain Brian Steidle, U.S. Marine Corps, when he lands in the Darfur region of Sudan, an official UN observer of the ceasefire between the Khartoum government and southern rebels. Taking its title from a loose translation of "janjaweed" - the Arab militia that's murdered and displaced countless black Africans in Darfur - the film centres around Steidle's horrifying photos documenting the atrocities.
While at first it's irritating that yet another African story is being told through the eyes of a white foreigner, the choice proves effective. Whatever else you may say about the American military, it is trained to act. Steidle's frustration at standing by, armed only with his camera, while his country's eyes are on Iraq, is gut-wrenching. And the film has plenty of Sudanese voices, including those who dispute the charge of genocide.
Kinetically shot and edited, heartbreaking and galvanizing, The Devil Came On Horseback poses one simple question: what the fuck is it going to take for the international community to send in the Marines?