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.


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