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"Darfur Now" Takes Viewers Where Few Dare to Go

Ted Braun's new documentary "Darfur Now" intends to spur the western world into action to save the people in the Darfur region of Sudan. VOA's Penelope Poulou has the story.

In Ted Braun's documentary a Darfuri man offers a chilling description of Darfur now: "What we have seen is deliberate targeting of civilians. Women are being raped, villages were being bombarded…"

In his documentary about Darfur, filmmaker Ted Braun does what many consider impossible. He leads a small camera crew into Darfur and films the wretched people there, gathering their gruesome stories and recording their suffering and loss.

In an interview with the Voice of America Ted Braun said that trust and respect opened the road to Darfur to him. "A lot of people said that we would never be able to work in Sudan, that we'd never be able to go to the places that we went to. I'll never know exactly why we were. But I do know that by responding with respect, by responding with open ears, I was able to accomplish things that other people said would never happen."

Braun also follows celebrities, such as Don Cheadle and George Clooney, to the United Nations where they pleaded for the people of Darfur. He interviews United Nations officials, volunteers and activists. One of them is Adam Sterling, a former California college student. He pushed for a law in California that now requires the state's pension funds to divest themselves of investments in any company with active business operations in Sudan.

"Those companies will basically get a letter from the state of California or have gotten a letter that says, 'You have to do two things: You have to either adopt substantial humanitarian and political programs in Sudan, basically use your leverage for good, or you have to get out," says the activist. "And if you don't do that, we're going to start selling our investments in your company.'"

But, Andrew Natsios, the U.S. government's special envoy to Sudan, says sanctions against the Sudanese government are rather anachronistic.

"Right now," says the ambassador, "I don't see any reason why we would impose sanctions on the north (where the seat of the government is.) The north is doing what we asked them to do. In terms of the security situation on the ground, there were four major incidents, military attacks. All four were initiated by the rebels."

Natsios says it is no longer government sponsored militia who kill and destroy but tribal factions, embroiled in a civil war. Regardless of who is the culprit, Ted Braun's documentary shows a Darfur community in shambles. Millions of refugees depend on the United Nations' food program for survival. Volunteers such as Pablo Recalde risk their lives daily to bring them food supplies. "We get riots, we get violence and eventually if the food is not available anywhere else, these people will start dying" says Mr. Recalde.

Ted Braun says Darfuris keep hoping. They are waiting for the "Hawaja,"-- the West-- to come and save them. "I spoke with one man who had been the adviser to President (Omar al-) Bashir on the Darfur crisis," says the director. "He's from Darfur and he said to me, 'After Allah, the Hawaja.'"

But Andrew Natsios says the Sudanese tribes need to do their part. "U.N. peacekeeping forces are much more successful and much more effective and much more capable protecting people if there is a political settlement that has been signed by all the combatants," he says. "If you don't have that, the chances of success drop."

"Darfur Now" does not attempt to analyze the political and historical causes that brought disaster into Darfur. It just exposes the effect that disaster has had on the Darfuris in hopes that the West, "The Hawaja," will do its part.