Darfur Now



NEW YORK -- This documentary might co-star Don Cheadle and George Clooney and feature a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it's not another installment of the popular "Ocean's" franchise. Rather, "Darfur Now" is a sober and passionate accounting of the efforts of six people working hard to help bring the world's attention to the ongoing tragedy in the Sudan region.

Unfortunately, for all its good intentions, Theodore Braun's docu feels at times misplaced in its emphasis and more than a little self-congratulatory in its tone. This is particularly true in the case of its profile of Cheadle (who also produced), which takes on the air of a high-minded "Entertainment Tonight" segment.

The people profiled in the film include the aforementioned actor, who describes his awakening to the African situation during the filming of "Hotel Rwanda"; Adam Sterling, a young UCLA student whose political activism helped lead to the passing of a California bill keeping state funds out of the region; Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, the leader of a massive camp inhabited by about 47,000 refugees; Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, who sets out to pursue Darfurian war criminals; Pablo Recalde, an Ecuadorian who has led efforts to bring food to the starving people of the area; and Hejewa Adam, a young mother who became an armed rebel after her 3-month-old son was killed by government forces.

The filmmakers gained unprecedented access to the region, garnering much footage that provides a vivid picture of the ongoing horrors. But it fails to deliver much in the way of background information and context, with the result that those not already familiar with the details of the situation might find themselves a bit lost.

While its activist subjects are indeed laudable, the film squanders much of its running time on ephemera. This is somewhat true with Sterling, who we see working his day job waiting tables in a Santa Monica restaurant, and very true of Cheadle, who admittedly gave needed star power to the project.

Interviewed at length to mournful piano under-scoring, the actor is seen hanging out with his kids, driving in his car, autographing his book and traveling across the world with his friend Clooney attempting to sway whatever politicians and government officials will meet them. It's a depressing reminder that in today's world, not even the effort to prevent an ongoing genocide is immune from the need for celebrity endorsement.

Warner Independent Pictures
A Participant Prods. presentation of a
Crescendo/Mandalay Independent Pictures production
Director-writer: Theodore Braun
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Mark Jonathan Harris
Executive producers: Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Omar Amanat, Matt Palmieri, Gary Greenebaum, Dean Schramm
Director of photography: Kirsten Johnson
Music: Graeme Revell
Co-producer: Lenore Zerman
Editor: Leonard Feinstein
Running time -- 99 minutes