Friday, November 2, 2007

popcorn now, genocide later

So, one of the cooler parts of working at a media corporation is that sometimes you get cool perks. Sometimes it's a heads up about a party, a cool artist is doing an afternoon performance in your building, sometimes it's that you see John Norris or Sway in the cafeteria, or discounts on Broadway tickets, or maybe that you get a discount on your phone bill (but let's be real, what company isn't giving those away?). Other times you get to see movies- they can be funny, smart, boring, but very rarely political. So when the opportunity came for me to see a *free* advanced screening of the Warner Independent film Darfur Now you know I couldn't pass it up.
For those of you who haven't heard of it- and I'm willing to bet that "people who haven't heard of this movie" makes up about 70% or more of the population- I'll go ahead and give a brief synopsis:
The documentary Darfur Now follows the effect that the genocidal conflict in Sudan has had on six people's lives as they try to affect change in what has been an almost 5-year strong (at least in violence) genocide that has devastated not only the lives of the people living in Darfur, but the land's resources. Pulling on Warner Brother's connections, the movie follows Ocean's 11-13 and Hotel Rwanda star Don Cheadle (and features a good bit of fine-ass George Clooney) in order to get some Hollywood type leverage with the public.
Things I liked about this movie: I feel like they do a pretty good job of giving historical context to the genocide at the beginning of the movie with facts and dates. Most people (read: regular Americans) are just getting up to speed on the fact that something is even happening in Darfur, and of that small percentage of the American population, even less are likely to sit down and dutifully research (read: go on Wikipedia) the history of the conflict. I mean I'll admit, I was one of these people at first, so I can't even act like I'm above that. So yeah, this was definitely a plus for the movie. I also liked that the movie showcased change and action rather than depression and trauma- it is a film that is about moving you to do something other than just feel sad.
While I liked all that about the movie, I will say that this being a production of Time Warner (Warner Independent, we know you are owned by something bigger.. psh) probably made it more likely than not that this was a little watered down. I mean, I can't be mad- if you want to get a message across to people here you have to package it in a certain way. Unfortunately, while making a genocide cinematically appealing (have a good plot line, characters with whom the audience can engage and a visible villain that all can unify against) can really draw in people emotionally and intimately connect them with a theme, it also runs the risk of fictionalizing not only the event in question but the people living in and through it. Once you connect to and internalize a person's struggle through a movie based on real life, I feel like people are apt to illegitmately assume that they understand that person's struggle when really they don't. And when you feel like you understand something you feel like you are living through it. And if you're living through it okay, what's the rush on changing things?
So yeah. I mean, all in all it was a good movie. It gets wide release today, so I encourage those of you who have a local theater where it is playing, and have an extra $20 to spare (I threw some concession $$ in there for you- y'all know I got your backs ;) to go and check it out. It's worth it.
SIDENOTE: The saddest moments of the movie? When the Black Sudanese hoped for help, and encouraged fellow displaced persons that "The white people will come soon, they will bring troops and save us."

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