Doc Blog

Let's Talk about Darfur

Yesterday afternoon we had the pleasure to hear a panel (pictured here)composed of Adam Sterling (Co-founder, Sudan Divestment Task Force), Don Cheadle (actor/activist), Ted Braun (director, Darfur Now), Cathy Schulman (producer, Darfur Now), and Mark Jonathan Harris (producer, Darfur Now) discuss the status of Darfur today.  The discussion titled The Time is Now: A Conversation about Darfur is part of the Mavericks sessions presented at this year's festival.

The session began with a speech by Luis Moreno-Ocampo (Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague).  His words were meant to give us an idea of the statistics of violence in Darfur and how important it is for the international community to become involved.  The most serious point to understand is that the very same man who is responsible for many of these violent crimes, Ahmad Harun, is also the one responsible of civillian affairs.  It is just too ironic.  Mr. Moreno-Ocampo strongly urged all of us to become involved; thus, setting the stage for the rest of the panel to begin the discussion.

Director Ted Braun's involvement in the Darfur activist movement started about 19 months ago.  He wanted to make a film that spoke to as many people as possible.  He also wanted to look at the conflict in Sudan (Darfur) from multiple points of view.  In this project, Darfur Now, Braun wanted to include people who believe they could change the situation in Darfur.  Thus, we are introduced to the rest of the panel.

Adam Sterling learned about the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, while taking an African Politics course in university.  From then on, he started to look for ways to get involved.  Then we have Don Cheadle, an amazing actor, whose involvement started by reading about the situation in Sudan, being involved in the film Hotel Rwanda and just recently, writing a book about his activism for Darfur.  He said "I'm a follower;" it is students who are leading the way in terms of becoming involved.   Cheadle visited Africa as well, upon returning he realised "it was impossible to do nothing."

The producers both mentioned how the issue of racial conflict is universal.  And that documentaries are on the frontline of what is happening in the world.  Mark Harris stated that documentaries precede fictional films; such is the case now with films being made about the situation in Iraq.

The point of  the film Darfur Now is to show how interconnected the world is.  As well, I think the makers of the film along with the people who participated in it, simply want the world to accept the seriousness of the situation in Sudan.

One of the key issues is to realise that bureaucracies commit these hate crimes; whether is the rape of women or the murder of children.  In the news, we get sound bites of several problems affecting the world today.  As Braun put it, there is a "tendency to simplify the conflict."  It is up to us, as Mr. Moreno-Ocampo stated, to become involved.  Everyone has the opportunity to do so.  Some members of this panel were not sure at first how they could make a difference but they all agree that no matter how small one may think it is, the effort matters. 


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