Darfur (2009)





Director:     Uwe Boll.

Starring:     Kristanna Loken (Malin Lausberg), David O'Hara (Freddie Smith), Noah Danby (Theo Schwartz), Matt Frewer (Ted Duncan), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Captain Jack Tobamke), Sammy Sheik (Janjaweed Commander), Maggie Benedict (Halima), Billy Zane (Bob Jones), Edward Furlong (Adrian Archer), Fatima Masapu (Munira), Tshegofatso Mashao (Sumah), Thando Sibeko (Poni), Yolanda Msimanga (Mende), Tauriq Jenkins (Musa), Olise Ikechukwu (Mohammed - Yusuf's Son).

American journalists debate whether they should go home and report the atrocities in Darfur or stay and help some of the victims they have seen


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

The journalists  (Bob Jones, Ted Duncan and Adrian Archer) are extremely upset over something they have recently seen.  To help them forget what they saw, they are drinking liquor and smoking cigarettes.  One man seems to be suffering from survivor's guilt. 

"The Darfur conflict has been termed a genocide and the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.  Over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced and the death toll has reached 400,000."

Along with two other journalists (Freddie Smith and Theo Schwartz), the three journalists from the start of the film are sitting in a large tent, relaxing and talking.  A woman journalist named Malin Lausberg makes an appearance.  With her are two Nigerian soldiers working for the African Union (AU).  The officer in charge, Captain Jack Tobamke, comes in and lays out a map of Darfur.  He says they will be heading 200 miles north.  Not all the journalists are listening, so the captain threatens to cancel the mission.  He says this is a very dangerous place they are going to.   Their destination is a three hours drive away.  Once they reach their destination, they will be there at the most one-and-one-half hours.  Then they will leave.  The captain has all the journalists sign a release form. 

The journalists jump into a van and away they go.  They are followed by two other vehicles.  The older journalist, Ted Duncan, tells Malin that he thinks he knows her from somewhere, but Malin says no.  He takes Malin's photo saying it's for his daughter who asked him to document everything on his trip. 

Bob asks if they can stop the van and the captain says no.  The captain wants to stick to his schedule, but Bob says that they are here precisely because they are to collect evidence of genocide and he thinks he sees evidence of a mass grave.  The captain gives in.  They drive over to an area scattered with lots of human skulls.  They take pictures and film of the site.  They talk about the leader of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir (president of Sudan from 1993 to ?), who always tells the west one thing, but then does another.  The captain hurries the journalists back into the van. 

Two vehicles stop in front of a jeep.  A black military officer gets out of his vehicle and shakes hands with the commander of the Janjaweed (that is, armed gunmen composed of men from the Sudanese Arab tribes).  The Janjaweed commander shakes hand with the military officer and asks him if he brought the gift?  They go to the rear car, open the back door and the commander looks in.  He is satisfied.  The rear car is left with the Janjaweed and the black military officer leaves in the front car. 

The AU vehicles reach their destination at a small Darfur village.  Also arriving in the village is a father/husband with his son. They are bringing supplies back to the village via a wagon and they also were picking up pieces of wood for firewood that is scattered around the area outside the village. 

 Nabagaia Village, Darfur.  Some of the children are busy kicking a ball around.  The journalists get out of the van and the captain introduces them to the chief of the village, Solomon.  The chief welcomes them and says the village is open to them.  The AU distributes bags of rice to the villagers.  Malin asks one of the women why are the village children hiding from them?  Because the Janjaweed will grab them and make the soldiers.  Malin gives out some candy to the children nearby.  She also gives them balloons they can blow up.   

Bob Jones wants to know if thec hief and others have seen any cooperation between the Janjaweed and the Sudanese army?  The translator says they don't have proof of their cooperation, but it is obvious that they do cooperate with each other.  Malin speaks to the wife of the wagon driver and asks in their native language if she can speak to her?  The woman says yes.  The woman's name is Halima and she has a baby with her.  She tells Malin that her husband died.  Now Malin gets right to the point.  Has she been reaped?  Halima just puts her head down.  Malin starts to leave. The woman warns her:  "It's dangerous here."

Adrian takes photos of the villagers. The captain asks if the Janjaweed have been to their village?  The answer is no, but they have destroyed all the villages around them.  The man now asks why does the AU come only after almost all the villages are destroyed?  The captain responds that Bashir only allowed them a very limited role as humanitarian helpers, not as fighters.  They can only oversee events, not intervene.  Journalist Freddie Smith asks a male villager about their problems and the man tells him that the Janjaweed are a real problem for them.  They have taken so many of their children.  They have also destroyed many of their buildings and houses.  Ted Duncan does the filming of the interview.  Malin continues asking women if they have suffered any sexual abuse?  A 23 year old woman says she can't ever remember having any peace in her life.  They killed her husband, mother and father.  She cries.  Malin tells her:  "We're going to get help for your country."

One woman says that she was raped by the Janjaweed.  The Janjaweed go around and raping the women.  Bob asks if she has AIDs and she says she doesn't know.  Bob says he's sorry for what happened to her and grateful she told her story to him.  He speaks into the recorder and says that despite a cease-fire and three UN resolutions, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is worsening. 

Freddie Smith asks a male villager if he is afraid what might happen to his family?  The fellow says he has already lost many relatives.  They used to live in peace with the Sudanese Arabs, but all that changed in 1988 when the war began.  The difference between them is that the Janjaweed are Arabs and they are black.  The Arabs want only Arabs to live in Sudan.  It's a racial war, because both races are Muslim.

The captain tells the journalists that they have to leave now.  They get into the van and drive off.  Along the way the captain stops the vehicle.  He gets out and with his binoculars takes a look at an area where a lot of dust has been stirred up into the air.  He tells another soldier that it's the Janjaweed.  Bob and Malin want to go back to protect the villagers.  Adrian says they're crazy if they think that they can save the villagers.  The hope is that the Janjaweed won't start anything with the western media there.  The captain also wants to go back.  Adrian is afraid that these Janjaweed are too dangerous to mess with.  The decision is to go back.  They turn the vehicles around and start back. 

They arrive back in the village.  The captain tells the chief to have everyone gather over by him.  When they gather together, the captain says that the Janjaweed are heading to the village.  The AU cannot use violence to stop them, but he thinks the presence of the western media might save the village.  There is a big explosion in the village and everyone starts to panic.  Some villagers have been killed or wounded.  Now they can see the Arabs coming over the road to the village.  They are armed with AK-47 assault rifles.  Most are on horseback but their commander and some men arrive in trucks. 

The captain stands out in front of the village to speak to the commander.  The commander wants to know why are they here at the village?  The captain says they are observers.  A woman approaches Freddie.  She wants Freddie to take her baby with him to America.  Her name is Khadija.  She adds that the Arabs will kill all of them.  Freddie accepts the baby and gets into the van.  The commander demands that the captain take his people and go.  Bob tries to get an interview with the commander, which enrages him.  The visitors won't leave so the commander shoots a small boy in the head to prove that he means business.  Now the AU crew gets into their vehicles.   

When everyone starts piling into the van the baby starts crying.  This brings the unwanted attention of the Arabs.  They force the captain to open the van's back door.  The captain has to ask Freddie to get out of the van.  Another man grabs the baby and then throws it onto the ground.  The people watching gasp at this.  The mother runs over to retrieve her baby.  The AU leaves. 

Now that the Arabs are alone with the Africans, they start herding people into groups.  Now an Arab fires his AK-47 killing men, women and children. 

Freddie is really bothered about what happened and he is still fuming about it. 

Now the Arabs start raping the women and killing everybody.  (I prefer not to watch this part too closely and I'm not going to summarize each blow, rape and death.  It's pretty disturbing and I know what's going to happen anyway.)

Freddie demands that they stop the van.  He gets out and demands that the captain give him a weapon.  The captain says he can't.  The captain points a gun at Freddie.  This enrages Freddie and he screams out the question: what if that was his wife and his kids?   What would he do then? 

The captain turns his pistol over to Freddie and tells him to go back.  The journalists protest against this act saying that it's the equivalent of a death sentence for Freddie.  Theo decides to go with Freddie.  The captain gets all the journalists left into the van.  Now he gets into the last vehicle, turns it around and takes off to get the other two fighters.  Freddie and Theo jump in the back of the pick-up truck. 

(And the atrocities just continue at the village.  Not summarizing them. There's just too many and it's too bloody.)   One of the male villagers decides to strike back.  He beats one rapist over the head with a tree limb.  He then puts his family into a hut and has them hide behind and overturned bed. 

Freddie, Theo and the captain arrive.  They slowly move up towards the village.  They can hear the screams and see the atrocities being committed.  The captain has the two men cover him with their pistols.  He move ups closer to the village, followed by Theo and then Freddie.  When they get settled into new positions, they open fire on the Arabs.  A number of Arabs go down.  The captain gets into another position and opens up on a group of murderers and rapists.  The Arab commander gets slightly wounded in the arm and demands to know where those shots came from.  The commander starts spraying the straw fences wildly.  The captain kills two more Arabs, but the commander shoots the captain and he goes down.  He is still alive.  The commander comes over and taunts a dying captain:  "No one will save these people because just like you, they are black African monkeys and no one cares for them."     

The one black fighter goes to help his family, but finds them all dead.  He cries over the dead children.  He finds a machete and picks it up.

Freddie shoots dead a rapist of the woman who asked him to save her baby.  They then take the woman and child with them.  The one black fighter kills still another rapist caught in the act.  The Arabs starts throwing the black victims into the village well.  They also burn a hut down upon a number of blacks pushed in there. 

The two journalists are going to try to get themselves and the woman and child to their vehicle.  An Arab with an AK-47 shoots at Freddie and the woman.  Theo shoots and kills the Arab.  Then both Freddie and Theo shoot down some more Arabs.  Freddie goes back to check on the woman, but she is dead.  So he takes the baby with him. 

Theo and Freddie can see the truck from where they are.  They decide to make a run for it.  Theo starts off first and then Freddie with the baby.  Arabs start shooting at them.  Freddie is hit and badly wounded.  He falls to the ground.  Theo comes back for him, but Freddie is in no shape to run anywhere.  Theo takes the baby and makes a run for it.  He is shot down..  He is able to dig a little hole for the baby and places it in the hole.  He then covers the baby with his body. 

Two Arabs drag the wounded Freddie over to the commander.  They pour gasoline over him and set him on fire.  The commander shoots Freddie dead after Freddie suffers for a short while.  The Arabs strike the burning body with their machetes.  Now all the village huts are burned.  The Arabs finally leave, celebrating as they go. 

Back to the present.  The journalists are still suffering from what they witnessed.  They can still see the many dead bodies they saw.  Bob tells Ted to bury it deep within himself. 

Flashback.   The journalists return to the village and see the aftermath of all the atrocities.  They find the villagers they met and interviewed all dead.  Malin calls out for Theo and Freddie. She hears a baby crying, goes over to Theo's body and pushes the body off the hole.   She picks up the baby and carries the child with her.  She gets back in the AU vehicle.  The small convoy leaves behind the remains of the village and its dead villagers. 

"That we have not stopped the genocide means we have not learned from history."


Good movie, but hard to watch because of the subject matter:  genocide.  There's a lot of blood and suffering in the film.  (I censored a lot of it out by only glancing through my eye lashes now and then to see if the violence was over yet.)  We don't really get to know the journalists very well,  but the emphasis in the film is rightly on the terrible atrocities committed by the Arabs against the indigenous blacks of Darfur.  We also don't know much about any of the other characters either, but we know enough to feel sad at their demise.  The closest person they had to a star of the film was the character of Captain Captain Jack Tobamke, played by  Hakeem Kae-Kazim (who did a good job of acting).  It was more of an ensemble cast. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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