Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Clip from the Film!

This clip features Alice Baumgartner. As a student at the Latin School of Chicago, Alice helped found a student activist group dedicated to raising money and awareness about the situation in Darfur. After seeing the documentary, Born into Brothels, Alice got the idea to send cameras to kids living in Darfur and Chad to not only document the lives of people in the conflict, but to do so from the perspective of the children. With the help of MTVu, her group sent 25 disposable cameras with three student correspondents from MTV. Much to her surprise, Alice received 23 cameras back with pictures taken by kids in a refugee camp in Chad.

The pictures are a very personal look at life in a refugee camp---but they aren't your typical pictures. They are pictures taken by children of children. We do not know their names. And we will never know what became of those captured with their cameras.

In this clip, Alice discusses her passion for the cause and we see some of those pictures. Also featured in the clip is music by Tom Flannery. It is a song written for the film entitled, "For Brian Burns."

Currently, Alice is a freshman at Yale University.

Save Darfur's Thanksgiving Campaign

SaveDarfur.org is running a Thanksgiving Campaign. You are encouraged to speak about Darfur at your family get-together and collect signatures to send to our government to help encourage further action on a situation that is getting worse by the day.

As we sit around our Thanksgiving meals, we need to remember those people struggling in Darfur--those who do not have any food to eat, those who are fleeing violence and rape, those who have lost their homes, children and family to a campaign of genocide by the Sudanese government.

This is the least we can do.

Visit the Save Darfur site to download the materials today.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Facing Sudan's Animator!

Meet E.J. Lucas. He is the new animator for Facing Sudan.

As many of you know, we are creating several sequences of animation for the film. I thought that animation would provide a stylized element to the film as well as providing a visual for events for which we have no footage. The animation, I think, will truly add a different dimension to the stories being told in Facing Sudan.

E.J. contacted me this summer after reading an article in the local newspaper about the animation that we were attempting. I knew EJ; he was a student of mine several years ago. He is a recent graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago with a degree in animation. His style is exactly what we were looking for.

EJ is a welcome addition to the film and his work will truly add a unique element to the film.

"I am very excited to be a part of this project," he said. "And hope that my contributions will bring more attention to the cause."

Below you can view a short animation clip that EJ has on his demo reel.

EJ Lucas: supermanimator@hotmail.com

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ryan Spencer Reed

Ryan Spencer Reed has over 56,000 photographs documenting the plight of the Sudanese people. He has spent months in South Sudan, Darfur, Kenya and Chad. His photographs are a stark reminder of the humanitarian crisis that is occuring in that country.

The first time Ryan went to Sudan, he needed to sell his car in order to pay for the transportation. Today, he leaves for Sudan again. This time to meet with the new vice president (the successor to John Garang) and to hopefully gain access to Darfur.

I stumbled by accident upon Ryan Spencer Reed's website a few months ago and was captivated by his images. We have spoken several times via email and telephone. On Friday night, we met for the first time in person at Northwestern University's STAND conference. Some 36 images of his are on display there and will be traveling the country, raising awareness about the plight of the Sudanese.

He spoke at the conference and presented a moving multimedia presentation of his photographs. You can view that presentation here.

We are please to announce that many of Ryan's images will be included in Facing Sudan. He has a very unique eye and has captured some haunting and heartbreaking images.

Ryan says this about his photographs:

Ultimately, my goal is to create a document which will give a human face to what was once unimaginable but nowadays is shockingly familiar---a genocide unfolding before the eyes of an impotent, dithering world. The cost of doing nothing is one humanity can never afford.
I encourage you to go to Ryan's website. There he has hundreds of images from Sudan.

It will move you.


More photographs can be found at http://www.groupm35.com

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Editorial Cartoon

Ed Stein, November 3, 2006
Rocky Mountain News


Friday, November 03, 2006

Almost a Disaster

I have been working on this film for over a year now. The editing itself began in earnest earlier this year and we have a rough cut of the film complete. It runs about 90 minutes or so.

The editing is, by far, the most tedious part of the production. But, at the same time, it is also very rewarding as I can see before my eyes the vision of the film---which, up until this point has been contained mainly in the recesses of my brain---come to fruition.

That being said----my heart stopped the other night as I was saving a small edit that I had completed. The computer froze.

And it didn't save.

In fact, once I restarted the computer, the project file would not load at all nor would any of the auto-saved files (I have the program set to save every 10 minutes). I don't know how long I sat, staring at the screen as the load meter that pops up when loading a project file simply stopped at around 90%.

I took a deep breath, walked upstairs and told my wife, "I think I lost the entire film."

I don't even know how many hours I had already sat at that desk editing the film...but for the moment it seemed like all that work was gone.

After trying several more times to load the project without success, I turned off the computer and walked away. In a daze. As if a part of me had been extinguished.

What would I do?

Before going to bed, I turned on the computer and attempted one more time to load the project.

And a miracle happened. After about 20 minutes, the project loaded. I don't know why or how, but the project was back. And I was ready to edit once again.

You realize something in those moments when technology fails: our lives are inexorably linked to our computers.

This incident highlighted one of the strange dichotomies of life in the modern world. To the people of Sudan, computers mean very little--their everyday realities are tied to sustenance and survival. Yet, in order to tell their stories we have to rely on things they do not have access to: email, computers, digital cameras and video, internet and blogs.

Much of what we know coming out of Darfur is from people on the ground--aid workers for the most part---who record and write via the technologies of the industrialized world. It is through this technology that we even know of the plights of these people.

Here are some blogs worth visiting, from those people using this technology to get the word out in hopes that someone out here in the digital wilderness is listening.

Bloggers for Darfur
Sleepless in Sudan
Genocide Intervention Network
Darfur: Hell on Earth
Jan Pronk
Coalition for Darfur
Sudan Watch


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Podcast!

This last summer, I appeared on a local radio program called Vantage Point. The program airs on Sunday mornings on 101.9 FM in Chicago. On this particular program, I discussed not only the film, but the teaching of genocide in school. For those of you who could not get up at 6 am when it aired, the entire program is available via podcast.

Click on this link to listen to the program: http://www.switchpod.com/p3268.html

Monday, October 23, 2006

Downward Spiral in Darfur

This is the image that greeted readers of the New York Times this morning.

The situation is growing worse as all sides have given up on the peace agreement signed last May. One rebel leader said, "It is all-out war. There are no agreements." Now called the National Redemption Front, the new rebel organization has had some recent success against the Sudanese government, prompting the government to take a very defensive stand. Yesterday, the government expelled Jan Pronk, the U.N. envoy to Sudan, for making public comments about the rebel victories.

In its desperation, the government has been making some outrageous claims as it tries to muster support from Arab allies in North Africa and the Middle East. Omar al-Bashir not only blames the United States for plotting to steal Sudan's oil, but claims that the stories coming out of Darfur are "fictions" enacted by Jews. "Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations,” he said.

This only means one thing: civilians in Darfur will suffer even more. Most likely, the Sudanese government will once-again unleash the janjaweed upon defenseless villages. This is the time of the year: the rainy season has ended and roads once again are passable.

Already in Darfur upwards of 400,000 people have died and millions have been displaced from their homes. The killing is not going to end----and the Darfurians know it. As one rebel leader stated: "The international community will not do it. So it is for us to protect the innocent civilians of Darfur."

As we put the final touches on the film, news like this makes things very difficult. I have purposefully avoided narration in the film, instead relying on the words of my subjects and the images from Sudan to tell the story. Along with the music, it is my hope to be able to place the conflict into perspective and give viewers what they need to know about the situation.

In the film, there is an historical montage about Darfur set to a song by Tom Flannery entitled, "It's Called Genocide." (Which you can download here) For me, this is one of the most challenging segments in the film---one that I keep putting off completing. The situation in Darfur changes on an almost daily basis and, with the more reading and research that I complete, the more complex the situation becomes. I wish the film to be as timely as possible as it needs to be completed by the end of December.

At the same time, we need to tell the complete story---to raise awareness of the situation there so that more pressure can be placed on our government to do something---anything---to end the ongoing genocide there.

We owe it to the people of Darfur. We owe it to ourselves.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Things are Getting Worse in Darfur

The Sudanese government is duplicitous. In an effort to deflect international criticism, the government signed a peace deal last May with two of the three rebel groups in Darfur. This seemed to placate many in the West as news coverage of the crisis in Darfur declined. That was the plan. And it worked.

After the signing of the treaty, the death toll rose as did the level of violence.

Today, the government of Sudan kicked out U.N. envoy, Jan Pronk, over remarks he made in his blog about the violence in Darfur. Pronk has been a vocal proponent of bringing 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the troubled region of Darfur and his remarks, according ot the Sudanese government, amount to "psychological war against the Sudanese army."

Welcome to the Facing Sudan Blog

Welcome to the Facing Sudan blog. Here you will find up-to-date information regarding the film and showings. In addition, here you will also find information about the current situtation in Sudan.

Check back often as we will be providing many updates.