Cinema of good intentions trumps deeper investigation in Don Cheadle’s exposé

Darfur Now

on November 02, 2007 by Kevin Courrier
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Working in the cinema of good intentions, director Ted Braun, making his first feature documentary, wants audiences to wake up to the mass genocide continuing to unfold in the Sudan. To do this, Braun focuses on six individuals who have dedicated their lives to making people aware of this dark tragedy.


The motley group includes Adam Sterling, a 24-year-old UCLA student whose Jewish grandmother escaped Nazi Germany; actor Don Cheadle, who learned about the murder, rape and displacement of the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit people by Janjaweed militias while working on Hotel Rwanda; and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who tries to launch investigations into the Sudanese government and armies to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Cross-cut with their efforts are scenes in Darfur of the rebel army training to fight the Janjaweed, plus refugee camps of displaced Darfurians struggling to hold their communities together. Braun skillfully cuts the narrative together so that it has a seamless flow. Kirsten Johnson's cinematography also has a bold graphic vitality.


But Braun obviously has his heart set on stirring hope in the audience rather than delving further into his story. At times, the sentimental tone of Darfur Now comes across like a TV infomercial—the kind of fundraiser that cheerleads and pulls heartstrings rather than plunging deep into the dark heart of the matter. By the time Stevie Wonder starts crooning Love's in Need of Love with Bono, you start wondering if someone is going to show up in the theatre aisle with a change box.


Distributor: Warner Independent
Cast: Don Cheadle, Hejewa Adam, Pablo Recalde, Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, Luis Moreno-Ocampo and Adam Sterling
Director/Screenwriter: Ted Braun
Producers: Cathy Shulman, Don Cheadle and Mark Jonathan Harris
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG for thematic elements involving crimes against humanity
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: November 2, 2007 NY/LA, November 9 exp.

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