Dealing in Darfur

Clooney & Co. lend helping hand

It’s been near impossible not to bump into someone at Cannes with a project related to the crisis in western Sudan. Press releases proclaiming Darfur docus or campaigns to raise awareness have kept flying in, and some of them don’t even feature George Clooney.

The efforts of Clooney and his fellow “Ocean”-eers have generated the most ink and coin, raking in an astonishing $9 million from just two nights of charitable carousing to promote Jerry Weintraub’s Not On Our Watch foundation, including a $1 million donation from Steven Spielberg, matching the previous seven- figure donation made by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

The money will be sent to refugee camps on the borders of Sudan and Chad where some 2 million Sudanese have fled since the outbreak of violence in 2003. Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have died during the Darfur conflict.

Clooney and his band of brothers haven’t been the only ones keen to keep Darfur in the public eye. Queen Noor of Jordan and Bianca Jagger spoke up about the crisis whilst announcing the launch of Canal Plus’ Cinema Verite filmmaking scheme.

Up the road at the first Intl. Emerging Talent Film Festival in Monte Carlo, Paul Freedman’s Darfur documentary narrated by Clooney, “Sand and Sorrow,” was handed the Inspiration Award.

U.S. shingle Sixth Sense has its own Darfur feature in the pipeline. “Beyond the Sun” has “Premonition” helmer Mennan Yapo attached to direct. The $15 million project is a co-production with Future Films and set for a South African shoot in February.

IRIN, the U.N.’s Integrated Information Network, has released its Darfur docu, “Peace Under Fire.”

In fact, the one region whose lack of interest in the conflict is most glaring is the Middle East itself. Mideast distribs have been noticeably absent from bidding for any of the docus.

“Nobody cares. If they want to watch documentaries, they can turn on the TV,” said one leading distrib.

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