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The Devil Came on Horseback – SXSW Film

The Devil Came on Horseback (Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg)

There are many that turn their nose up when they hear about a celebrity getting behind a cause or political candidate. But the fact is, that’s what gets people’s attention. Our complacent society mixed with the stock oriented media channels, there is a lot of horrible things being done to many people while we’re watching Britney Spear going through the drive-thru before turning over custody of her children.


One can’t deny that we didn’t really hear too much about Darfur until George Clooney and his dad took a trip there with a few cameras and brought back footage of the travesty that was taking place. And as with most hot topics that CBS, NBC or ABC either steer clear from or only touch on, it is a documentary like “The Devil Came on Horseback,” which provides us with real insight into the stories that matter.

This story of “The Devil Came on Horseback” is told by former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, who at the end of his first four years of service, didn’t want to spend the next four years behind a desk. He got out of the Marines and found his calling by a position posted online, enrolling to be part of a team that would patrol a ceasefire in Sudan, but with no idea of what that really meant.

Using his previous military experience, which had been carried on in his family for generations, he became part of the staff hired by the African Union; a pan continental organization that recruited international monitors to their team. Devil…takes a few steps back from the reports we occasionally hear in the news, explaining the history of how this atrocity began, how the Arab-run government’s goal to maintain control was facilitated by the Janjeweed, or the devils come on horseback, whose goal was to rid the region of its black African citizens.

Then the cover is pulled back even further when the topic of oil comes into the picture, and how China plays a part in protecting their pipelines. Many light bulbs begin to go off as you learn about Sudan’s reliance on China to have the expertise and capital to do the oil drilling for them. The financial circle closes as it becomes clear that China’s money that comes into Sudan via oil sales is being used to fund the clearing of homesteads to make way for additional pipelines and to support the Janjeweeds control over the people in Darfur, which has led to millions of people killed.

Although some of the scenes are harsh and difficult to see, I have to give credit to directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, along with Steidle’s natural skill for reporting, which was done in a clear, tell-it-like-it-is method. I only wish our news media would embrace this level of journalistic integrity.


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