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Attack On Darfur
(a.k.a. Darfur)
(2009)

Director: Uwe Boll
Cast:
Kristanna Loken, David O'Hara, Noah Danby


I realize that I will probably never win a Pulitzer prize for my writing for this web site, which is something that I don't mind. Perhaps if I really changed my work habits, choice of written subject matter, and became more professional, I would have a shot. But over the years I have seen the great challenge that professional journalists often have to face. I learned some important lessons about the difficulty of journalism from a couple of movies producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus produced. In the movie Death Wish 4, the reporter character played by actress Kay Lenz after the drug death of her daughter wants to write a piece in her newspaper about drugs. But when she approaches her editor about it, he is initially against it. I forget his exact words, but it was to the effect that the subject had already been done to death by many others and nobody cared about the subject anymore. In another Golan and Globus movie - Street Smart - the movie brought up the interesting subject that journalists might embellish stories to a great degree in order to have a really good scoop that will continue their careers - or might just completely make up the story, as did Christopher Reeve's character did in the movie. While I'm on that subject, I would like to bring up the subject of all those tabloids you see at the supermarket. Any sane person knows that many of the stories in those rags are completely made up. So you have to wonder about the people who write those pieces of fiction claiming to be fact. How do they feel as they write those stories? Do they feel any shame? Apparently that may be indeed the fact; I heard that at The National Enquirer, there is a very high burn out rate among the various reporters who work there.

There is also another challenge that professional journalists sometimes have to face that quite frankly I don't think I would be able to do. It can be summed up in a stand up comedy routine that I once read about when I was a teenager. I think it came from comedian Eddie Murphy, but I'm not sure. Anyway, in the routine, the comedian was talking about watching a television report about the starvation going on in Ethiopia at the time. The comedian then wondered out loud why the reporter covering the story didn't just give a sandwich to the starving child that he was being filmed with. I think you know what I'm getting with here - why do reporters just report their stories and never get involved in doing something to right what is a bad situation? Well, I could go on about ethics, journalistic objectivity, and other similar subject matter for quite some time, but I don't think I would tell you anything that you didn't know. But I can tell you that during the times I have seen reporters trying to get more involved with a story, it often doesn't have the same impact of letting the public decide for itself. For example, back in 1993, a television show by the name of The Crusaders made its debut. In the show, the reporters would not only report on various social outrages (such as a city deciding to shut down the local poison control center hotline), but would essentially plea for their viewers to do something about it - and would help the viewers by revealing telephone numbers and addresses so they could contact and shame the people who were doing wrong. What I remember is that this pleading came across as heavy handed, and for me at least it gave me the opposite effect than what was intended. Apparently a lot of other viewers agreed; the show barely lasted two seasons in length.

So as you can see, there is a danger of reporters getting too close to their stories. But I can certainly understand when reporters get conflicted about something they report; they are human after all. Attack On Darfur, the movie I am reviewing here, promised to take a look at the issue of if Attack On Darfurreporters should just report, or do something more. That was one reason I was interesting in watching the movie. But another reason was that the movie was directed by Uwe Boll. As you may know, Boll has made a name for himself in the past for directing incredibly bad movies such as House Of The Dead, Alone In The Dark, and the entires in In The Name Of The King film series. But in recent years, I have heard that Boll's new movies have improved greatly in quality, some enough so to get some positive reviews from some people. This intrigued me enough that added with the fact that I haven't covered Boll on this web site before, I decided to look at one of these newer efforts, that of course being Attack On Darfur. As you probably guessed by the title, the events of the movie take place in the African country of Sudan. Six western journalists, played by Matt Frewer (Twenty Bucks), Billy Zane (Titanic), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2), David O'Hara (Cowboys And Aliens), Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3), and Noah Danby (Detroit Rock City), travel to a small village in the Darfur region to interview the village's citizens concerning the genocide and other wartime atrocities that are happening in the region. When they are finished and start on their journey to their base camp, the journalists see that a militia group known as the Janjaweed will soon arrive at the village with the intent to kill every last one of the villagers. The six journalists are faced with an unenviable choice; do they flee the area to report this to the world and live with knowing they abandoned the villagers, or will they stay and help the villagers defend themselves and risk getting killed in the process?

In case you are wondering, I had seen several of Boll's other movies before sitting down to watch Attack On Darfur, and whether they were adaptations of video games (House Of The Dead, In The Name Of The King) or having subject matter more original (Assault On Wall Street, Rampage), I found them all unsatisfying to a degree - usually to a large degree. Part of the reason was that the direction of these movies was quite excessive; Boll often didn't seem to know that often less is more. To a degree that is true with the direction of Attack On Darfur, namely with Boll's use of hand held cameras. I am pressed to think of a moment in the movie that wasn't filmed with a hand held camera, but I can certainly recall some moments where Boll jiggles around the camera so much (and often right close up to his actors) that it's kind of hard to comprehend what's going on in front of us. Some restraint during those moments would have helped, but as it turns out, Boll's camera technique more often than not helps instead of hurts the movie. When the bullets start flying in the second half of the movie and people are running for their lives, Boll's camera work really does give the viewer a real feeling of the chaos that is going on in front of us. Real life warfare is definitely not the slicked-up presentation that Hollywood more often than not gives us. But even in the quieter moments, Boll's hand held camera technique is still quite effective. There are some non-violent yet tense moments where Boll's direction suggests that violence could start at any moments. When the African Union leader (Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Hotel Rwanda) of the party that is escorting the journalists first confronts the Janjaweed platoon leader (Sammy Sheik, American Sniper), there is a true cinema vÚritÚ feeling, as if we are eavesdropping on a real conversation by real people that is becoming more tense with every second, but we can do nothing about it but look on helplessly.

That moment is soon after followed by an equally tense moment where one of the journalists, who minutes before was handed a baby by one of the villagers in an effort to save it from possible death, trying to hide the baby from the Janjaweed forces. Bringing up that moment, you might wonder how convincing it is, seeing how journalists are not supposed to get personally involved with what they are reporting. Well, I was able to believe that particular moment. But a short time later in the movie, when some of the journalists decide that they must get more involved, it was a little unclear why they apparently thought they should risk almost certain death. They only previously spent a few hours with the villagers, and they seemed almost blasÚ even earlier when they came across the mass skeletal remains of a massacre. But everyone is not the same, I know, and I guess it could happen - though some more explanation would have helped. Actually, most of the portrayals of the journalists are pretty believable. While I don't think we learn any of their names until one is uttered halfway through the movie, their behavior is convincing. For example, when the character played by Furlong (who looks really aged and weathered, by the way) starts to take pictures in the village, he first manipulates objects (and villagers) to make sure he gets the best looking shots he can. As the lone female journalist, Loken shows a bit more compassion when interviewing the villagers, such as giving out balloons to the children. But at the same time, part of her is out for something provocative to report, such as when she blatantly asks a woman in the village if she has ever been raped. Later, she comforts a crying woman by telling her that she and her reporter colleagues will report to the world what is going on. But the way Loken's character says those words clearly shows she has severe doubts that the reporting will make any real difference.

Attack On Darfur does give some time for the villagers themselves. They answer to the journalists - and the audience - many pointed questions, like why they are staying where they are instead of trying to flee from the Janjaweed. As a result, they come across as real and sympathetic people instead of annoyingly helpless. The only real character weaknesses are the Janjaweed. While I certainly didn't want to sympathize with these butchers, their motives are to a degree a little vague. We do learn a few things, like that Arabs like them want all Africans out of the territory, but why exactly? Maybe director Boll (who also co-wrote the screenplay) was afraid that shining light on their motives might unintentionally give them sympathy. But I don't think that would have happened, seeing how Boll portrays them in the second half of the movie. The second half of the movie - when the action stated in the movie's title starts to unfold - is quite hard to sit through. Though I consider myself a somewhat jaded viewer after seeing so much movie violence, the violence in this movie truly shocked me at times. Not just shocking because of its brutality, but also from the messages it was saying, ranging from the fact that real life violence like this happens all of the time to the fact that sometimes real life bad guys do not get punished. Though you may find Attack On Darfur in the "action" section at your local DVD retailer, make no mistake about it - the action in this movie is not fun at all. Which is how it should be. If you are looking to be simply entertained, this is not the movie for you. But those who are looking for an intelligent message about what exactly is going on in this world and what needs to be done about it will find the movie worthy. I never thought I would say that last sentence about an Uwe Boll movie, but there you are.

(Posted November 15, 2021)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Omega Doom, Salt In The Wound, Self Defense

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