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DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK, THE (director/writer: Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern; cinematographers: Jerry Risius/Phil Cox/ Tim Hetherington/William Rexer II/Ms. Sundberg/John Keith Wasson; editor: Joey Grossfield; music: Paul Brill; Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ms. Sundberg/Ms. Stern/Gretchen Wallace/Jane Wells/Ira Lechner/Eileen Haag/Cristina Ljungberg; International Film Circuit; 2007)
“Gripping, heartfelt and eye-opening film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Documentarians Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern (“The Trials of Darryl Hunt”) tell in a no-nonsense fashion about the genocide crisis in Darfur, as it emerged after a 20-year civil war between the Arab-Muslim north and Christian/Anima south in the Sudan. The gripping, heartfelt and eye-opening film takes us to the area through the caring Brian Steidle, a 27-year-old ex-Marine captain from a military family, who got the job as an unarmed cease-fire monitor in Sudan in early 2004 via the Internet after finishing up his marine hitch. Brian gives us a first-person account during the few months he spent as part of an African Union monitoring team in the western Sudanese provinces. He shows through convincing photos (more than a thousand photos) the shocking images of the slaughter of innocents, through heartbreaking interviews of those who are affected by the tragedy, and through onsite footage the remains of the killing fields, which gives us proof of the widespread atrocity that is ongoing that has so far found 400,000 black African citizens dead and another 2.5 million displaced. Brian clues us in to the disaster occurring in the Muslim region of Darfur, where a vicious Arab militia known as “Janjaweed” (roughly translated from the Arabic to mean Devil on Horseback) are methodically targeting only the black civilians of Darfu to eliminate their presence in the area and are doing it by mass rapes and brutal slaughter in the rural villages. The Janjaweed are being armed and assisted by the Sudanese government. But the world has remained ignorant of this because word hasn’t gone out and it’s Brian’s hope that since he now put the word out through a story written by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, that the world would now act once it sees these horrible photos of massacres to stop the racist slaughter. Kristof’s article pointedly said “But if our leaders are acquiescing in genocide, that’s because we citizens are passive, too. If American voters cared about Darfur’s genocide as much as about, say, the Michael Jackson trial, then our political system would respond.” What Brian is asking the public to do, is write their political representatives to demand action. He appears to be just a sincere average joe who due to circumstances became an activist for human rights and is trying to wake up the conscience of the American people–just like he was woken up to the injustice. It’s one thing to say “never again” another Holocaust, but when in recent times we had Rwanda and now Darfur and the world stands by and allows such bad things to happen–then we all become complicit in mankind’s inhumanity. This documentary is more than just a movie, it’s a public service reminder.

REVIEWED ON 12/24/2007 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”