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Songs To Enemies And Deserts is a film by David Martinez and 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 scene from the film:
And here is another:
In case the reader doesn’t know, in July of 2009 Shane was arrested somewhere near the Iraq/Iran border along with his partner Sarah Shourd and their friend Josh Fattal. The three were hiking near a waterfall in Iraqi Kurdistan where they were apprehended by Iranian border guards and charged with espionage. As of this writing they are still behind bars in Evin Prison in Tehran and you can read all about the case here.
Neither Shane, Sarah, or Josh are spies, of course, despite the rather off-beat place that they were hiking when they were grabbed. The reason they were in Iraqi Kurdistan is because all three of them are world-travelers, independent journalists and writers. When Shane lived here in the San Francisco Bay Area, he did this amazing photography project about impoverished hotels in the Sixth Street neighborhood of SF. Sarah and Shane had been was living in Damascus since 2008, where Sarah taught English and worked with Iraqi refugees while Shane wrote articles for The Nation, Mother Jones, and other publications on Middle Eastern politics.
Here is a short film about the three of them, explaining more about who they are, and why they are not only not spies but wonderful people doing great work.
As for the film Shane and I made, I am entering it into festivals and film markets and using it, wherever possible, as a way to get the word out about my friend’s imprisonment.
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.
If anyone is interested in setting up a screening of the film please get in touch with me via this website, and if you wish to purchase a DVD of the film please click on the PayPal button at the top of this page.
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.