THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sand and Sorrow (***)

Sand and Sorrow
Director: Paul Freedman
USA, 2007, 92 minutes
Plot: A George Clooney-narrated documentary about the events that led to the rise of Darfur's Arab-dominated government and the international community's "legacy of failure" to respond to the genocide carried out in the country. Interviewees include Holocaust author/survivor Elie Weisel, author Samantha Powers, NY Times columnist Nicolas Kristof and US Senators Barack Obama and Sam Brownson.

Talk about black on black crime. The worst example in the world is taking place in Darfur, where the Sudanese government's ethnic cleansing continues unabated thanks to China's dependence on Sudan's oil, the United States' dependence on Sudanese intelligence (like Pakistan, Sudan is another dubious "ally" in our the War on Terror - supplying us with info on the terrorists they once harbored - mainly to avoid being attacked by us) and world indifference. As one commentator says, the world doesn't care much about people unless they represent either "a threat or a benefit." For the US and other world powers, Darfur simply doesn't show up on our radar. We call what's happening there genocide, but (like Rwanda) don't do anything about it because, ultimately, Sudan is just a place of sand and sorrow. And all our resources and military are in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyway.

Invisible People, unheard pleas

All Sudanese are black of skin and Muslim of faith, but the Sudanese goverment and its Janjaweed militia henchmen ignore these similarities and consider only those of Arabic descent to be human. It's a belief in ethnic purity the likes of which haven't been seen since the Aryan theories of Hitler's Third Reich.

This doc was good, but it didn't wow me. It concentrates a lot of the groundbreaking columns of Nicolas Kristof who brought the genocide to America's attention on the front pages of the New York Times, and to a lesser extent on the words of Elie Weisel and Harvard prof Samantha Powers (who is shown getting face time with Barack Obama). It also spent a lot of time developing a parallel "Home Front" narrative showing how young people at USC and a Midwest high school create awareness and promote activism at the grassroots level.

But it's ultimately not as good Frontline's "On Our Watch" special, which went into more detail about Chinese involvement in stymying United Nations efforts to do anything of significance in Darfur and Sudan. (Only recently, in the lead-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, has the UN been successful in getting any concessions from the veto-wielding Chinese, who want to avoid being embarassed by protesters during their moment in the spotlight.) Frontline's doc features many of the principles seen in Sand and Sorrow, especially Samantha Powers, John Pendergast, and Nicolas Kristof, but adds the advocacy work of the still-active, still-beautiful Mia Farrow, as well.

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