Written by Diane Tillis
As the title suggests, Attack on Darfur depicts the genocide occurring in Darfur, and it doesn’t get more real than this.
I have seen many films that chronicle the evil that exists within mankind. These films, in my opinion, are the most difficult to watch. I can sit through the goriest of horror films and not have a physical reaction. However, films that depict the horrors of real life terrorism make my stomach turn, because you know it is real. The Boogey Man isn’t real, but a terrorist with a mind towards ethnic cleansing is very real.
Attack on Darfur chronicles six Western journalists and three African Union soldiers who travel to a small village in Darfur to collect the stories of survivors. It was heart-wrenching to hear the stories of women and children raped, entire families lost, homes destroyed, and children taken away to be trained as soldiers. They knew what would happen to their village one day, but they chose to stay because Darfur is their home.
As the journalists drive away, they notice the Janjaweed are heading for the village. A couple of the journalists were trying to uncover any bit of information that would prove the Janjaweed were sponsored by the state. In one short scene, the leader of the Janjaweed meets up with a state military representative who gives him a brand new car. The audience is privy to information the journalists are trying to prove. The Janjaweed are Arab Muslims who are trying to rid Africa of the African Muslims. Thus when the journalists see the Janjaweed heading for the village, they decide to return to the village, hoping that their presence with deter the Janjaweed from attacking.
This is the point when the film becomes very difficult to watch. The journalists fail to protect the village and are sent away, or else they would be killed too. As they drive off, the camera flashes back to the village and the genocide begins. Women are raped, children are killed, men are slaughtered; no one is safe from the Janjaweed. While nothing is graphic, it is insinuated. Two journalists and the African Union captain decide to return to the village, but the massacre continues until the village is destroyed.
While Uwe Boll created this film with good intentions, there are a few problems with the film’s execution. The film is shot entirely with handheld cameras. This gives the film a documentary feel, but makes it difficult to follow the action. The journalists are played by several recognizable faces: David O’Hara, Billy Zane, Kristanna Loken, Edward Furlong, Matt Frewer and Noah Danby. While Billy Zane, Kristanna Loken, and Edward Furlong grace the cover of the DVD case, they actually have very little screen time. In fact, the entire DVD case is misleading. By looking at the case, you get the impression this is an action film set in Darfur when it is the complete opposite. Billy Zane is carrying a weapon, helicopters are flying above, and a Hummer is racing to the scene. This is a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
The video aspect ratio is 2.40:1. While the video quality is fine, as I described, the film is shot entirely with handheld cameras. At times it was very difficult to follow the action of the film because the camera was moving too fast to focus on a subject. I understand that Uwe Boll was trying to give the film a documentary-like feel, but the camera work needed to be refined a bit. All the tight angles and extreme close-ups also contribute to the difficulty with watching the film.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. My main problem with the audio happens in the beginning and the very end of the film. Whenever the Western journalists are gathered in a group and start talking at the same time, it is difficult to understand what they are saying. Often the camera wouldn’t even focus on whoever was talking; they are off-camera. Over a third of the film occurs during the siege of the village. During this sequence there is little dialog except the screams of the villagers. The only language selection is English, but Arabic is spoken by many of the characters and comes with on- screen subtitles.
The only special feature to the DVD is the Director’s Commentary. Uwe Boll discusses his purpose to create the film, some behind-the-scenes details, and discusses the history of Darfur.
Attack on Darfur is a difficult film to sit through with a straight face. The film has a narrow scope of the genocide in Darfur since it focuses on only one village, but I think this was a smart move. You learn about the villagers and their lives through the journalists. They become real-life people instead of another extra on the set. I would rent this film if you are interested in seeing this perspective of the genocide.