Review: The Devil Came on Horseback

The Devil Came on Horseback explains the rationale for the chaos in Darfur in terms we can all understand.

The Devil Came on Horseback
Photo: International Film Circuit

Jangaweed is Arabic for “devil on a horse.” Do not forget that name—or its translation. In the Darfur region of Sudan, the Jangaweed, a militia group sponsored by the government, has been largely responsible for the genocide that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes. Directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, whose documentary The Trials of Darryl Hunt is currently in theatrical release, The Devil Came on Horseback explores the tragedy in Darfur through the eyes of a marine captain, Brian Steidle, who took a job with the African Union, armed only with “a camera, pen, and paper.” After the area exploded in violence, a heroic Steidle shunned his role as an impartial observer in order to shed new light on the genocide, photographing the horrors committed against Darfur’s black Africans and interviewing members of the Jangaweed who readily admit to being funded by officials in Khartoum. Sundberg and Stern’s aesthetic is seemingly indebted to Tony Scott (sketchy uses of speculative sound effects, fancy camera angles and whip flashes, and an over-reliance on maps and typewritten fonts), but their insult against cinephilia is not so grand as that of the international community’s inaction in the region. The Devil Came on Horseback both explains the rationale for the chaos in Darfur in terms we can all understand and asks us to follow Steidle’s lead by demanding our leaders to act now in order to save the helpless people of Darfur. God help us if we don’t.

Score: 
 Cast: Brian Steidle  Director: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg  Distributor: International Film Circuit  Running Time: 85 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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