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Film Review: All About Darfur (Taghreed Elsanhouri, 2005)
Language: English/Arabic (English subtitles)

Taghreed Elsanhouri's first feature documentary, All About Darfur, serves as an intimate portrait of ordinary Sudanese people whose lives have been affected by the decades-long civil war and the current crisis in the Darfur region of the country. Rather than repeat the same harrowing images of humanitarian catastrophe as shown in the western media, Elsanhouri's film brings a close focus on the opinion and experience of the individual, and on the conflicting views of Sudan's splintered culture.

Nor does All About Darfur seek to offer up solutions or provide answers to what is variably seen as a political, cultural or religious problem. Instead, it gives the audience a raw view of current Sudanese attitudes towards the situation in Darfur, where millions of people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands killed as a result of three years of fighting between rebels and pro-government forces.

Elsanhouri, who was born in Sudan and later came to the UK as a child, goes to Sudan as an outsider, to find out for herself what has happened to the country in which she spent an "idyllic childhood". She is clear about her purpose for making the film: "I'm a filmmaker not a policymaker, for me this film was a personal journey. What I've done is share that journey with you."

Throughout the film it is noticeable that the director has sought not to stamp her own opinions or perspective onto the documentary, but to instead present the raw footage she has captured and "to show that there is complexity there, and no single cause for the situation in Darfur."

The structure of the film is quite simplistic and follows a pattern of linking blocks of interviews with between-location footage and discussion between the director and her Sudanese cameraman/government minder.

All About Darfur's strength is the level of intimacy between the camera and the interviewees, and the candidness with which they talk. The majority of these interviews take place outside the Darfur region and reveal the experiences and conflicting opinions of ordinary Sudanese people, academics and officials, touching on many relevant topics including the complexity of race and religion in Sudan, politics, and the possibility of UN intervention.

The interviews inside the Abu Shoak refugee camp in Darfur are in stark contrast to those outside the region. While those witnessing the crisis from the outside speak passionately about causes and solutions, of politics and race, there is a sense of normality. The tone inside the camp is rather different, and the displaced people there speak instead of fear and desperation, of beatings and atrocities.

The director herself stresses that the film is not in any way meant to be a comprehensive exploration of the crisis in Darfur, but instead should be seen as "one short journey" through a nation divided. And this journey succeeds in illuminating elements of the Sudanese national character rarely seen in the international news media.

 

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