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Songs To Enemies And Deserts is a film I made with Shane Bauer about an area of Sudan that is controlled by two factions of armed rebels. It is about the daily lives of the farmers and herders who live there as they interact with the rebels who try and hold the forces of the Janjaweed and the Sudanese army at bay.
It’s been said that 95% of a war is waiting, and our film is about that part: when the conflict comes to a standstill, and the men with guns become part of everyday existence. Life is hard in Darfur, but it continues on nonetheless.
Here is a short news piece that Current TV did about Songs To Enemies And Deserts. Shane is on the viewer’s right and I’m on the left.
Here is the final film:
What follows is the long story about how and why we made Songs To Enemies And Deserts:
“From the mountains of Jebel Marra in central Darfur a ragged group of rebels swept down onto Sudanese military bases in 2003, routing the government’s soldiers and making off with rifles, artillery, and vehicles. The Sudan Liberation Army had scored its first victory, and no one could predict what would follow. Instead of taking on the rebels directly, the Khartoum government sent bombers and horse-mounted militias (Janjaweed) to murder and terrorize Darfuri civilians. The ensuing horrors were documented by the international news media and the world’s outcry was part of the reason that the attacks subsided, at least temporarily. With the government murdering the civilian population to quell the rebellion, the rebels became the civilians’ only protection force.
Who are these men and why did they begin fighting in the first place, and what part do they play in the ongoing situation that is Darfur? Their demands are widely supported by the civilian population: they want roads and schools, clean water, health care, and representation in their country’s otherwise despotic government, controlled by an elite which has ruled from the country’s northern region since the Sudanese gained independence from the British in 1956.
We felt that in all of the attention that Darfur was getting, the Darfuri people themselves were often portrayed as abject victims, with hands outstretched, pleading with the west to come to their rescue. And yet here were Darfuris who had risen up against a murderous and racist regime, people who were very far from being helpless Africans. We wanted to understand these rebels’ world, their motivations, their histories, who they were and why they fought.
We also wanted to put the Darfur crisis in a broader context of of the longer and deeper history of the Sudan and of Africa. Simply put, horrific crises like the genocide in Darfur do not spring from nowhere. There are roots to the problems and until they are recognized and addressed they can never be solved, in Darfur or anywhere else.”
Songs To Enemies And Deserts, (35 minutes), NTSC, Color, Filmed on digital video. In Arabic, Zaghawa, and English with English subtitles. Directed by David Martinez and Shane Bauer, photographed by David Martinez, edited by David Martinez, Shane Bauer, and Iona Sidi. Sound mixed by Luis Guerra, Terremoto Studios, New Mexico.