Darfur Now

Conscientiously upbeat and shiny, "Darfur Now" takes a tactical approach in addressing the ongoing African genocide: Present the appallingly grim situation in Sudan through the rosy lens of activism and political awakening.

With:
With: Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Adam Sterling, Hejewa Adam, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Pablo Recalde.

Conscientiously upbeat and shiny, “Darfur Now” takes a tactical approach in addressing the ongoing African genocide: Present the appallingly grim situation in Sudan through the rosy lens of activism and political awakening. Star wattage provided by Don Cheadle and George Clooney could draw audiences unfamiliar with the crisis, while slowly increasing awareness might translate into ticket sales and letters of outrage to congressmen. On the other hand, history has proved that the pre-converted will be the largest constituency for the docu, set for Nov. 2 release by Warner Independent.

There’s little doubt that those who go into this fast-paced doc will come out saddened and indignant; 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced over the past four years. Refugee camps are teeming and global will has been weak. But as helmer Theodore Braun elegantly informs us, people really are working to stop what is an international embarrassment. He focuses on six.

They include Cheadle, who uses his celebrity and friends like Clooney to publicize the Sudanese crisis; Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, who once upon a time brought members of the junta to justice in his native Argentina; and Pablo Recalde, who runs the World Food Program in West Darfur, running his supply trucks through a gauntlet of gunfire and hijackings.

Championing grassroots efforts, “Darfur Now” also looks at Adam Sterling, whose efforts include handing out leaflets in Santa Monica and helping get a bill passed in Sacramento to divest California of Sudanese investments. Hejewa Adam, a rebel whose baby was killed by the Janjaweed (“devils on horseback”), has taken up arms against her oppressors.

Among the many misfortunes to befall the people of Darfur has been one of timing: The Iraq War, which has been going on for about as long as the genocide, has attracted much of the attention that might otherwise have been focused on Darfur. In his construct of people, efforts and issues, Braun makes it clear that Darfur embodies all the elements of current and future world tension: tribalism, religious conflict, global warming (drought was a factor in the war) and China, which gets 60% of all Sudanese oil.

Braun and his team manage to make this knotty situation lucid and palatable. “Darfur Now” could conceivably make a difference in enlisting people to the cause.

Production values are first-rate, notably the editing by Edgar Burcken and Leonard Feinstein, making sense of an unwieldy array of people, places and events.

Darfur Now

Production: A Warner Independent Pictures release, presented with Participant Prods., of a Crescendo, Mandalay Independent Pictures production. Produced by Cathy Shulman, Don Cheadle, Mark Jonathan Harris. Executive producers, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Omar Amanat, Matt Palmieri, Gary Greenebaum, Dean Schramm. Co-producer, Lenore Zerman. Directed, written by Theodore Braun.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Kirsten Johnson; editors, Edgar Burcken, Leonard Feinstein; music, Graeme Revell; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Wellington Bowler. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 8, 2007. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: With: Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Adam Sterling, Hejewa Adam, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Pablo Recalde.

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