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The Devil Came on Horseback




In 2004, former Marine captain Brian Steidle impulsively took a new job: the African Union's unarmed observer for the recently brokered cease-fire in Sudan. Thus, he was on the ground when the humanitarian crisis erupted in Darfur, near his post in western Sudan. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundbeck's documentary -- which takes its title from a translation of "janjaweed," the region's organized marauders -- provides a primer on the genocidal conflict as it recounts Steidle's experience and his subsequent personal transformation. Armed only with his camera, Steidle meticulously documented the atrocities; the photos will shock, though some, such as Steidle's hastily caught snaps of the janjaweed galloping into a village, have a terrifying beauty. Steidle turned his outrage into activism, though his struggles have yet to bear real fruit. Devil should inspire viewers to action -- and it may still -- but the weight of the ongoing crisis' hopelessness makes the film feel more like a dirge than a rallying cry. Nor can we imagine the psychic burden Steidle haltingly reveals late in the film, his intractable guilt as an impotent witness. "Watching is nothing," he says, "it's just watching." Yet he watched, then acted -- and now you can too. In English, and various languages, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Oct. 19. Harris

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