As sure as bloodlust never sleeps, the Sudanese-government-sponsored murder, rape and looting in Darfur is another genocide the West sees fit to tolerate under cover of a semantic smoke screen. That’s the inevitable conclusion of this harrowing first-person doc, which is as brazen in its call for military intervention as it is aesthetically accomplished.
Filmmakers Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern hang their exploration/explication of the massacre on the career of 27-year-old Brian Steidle, a puckish, peripatetic ex–U.S. Marine who volunteered as an observer in Darfur for the African Union in 2004. A compulsive shutterbug, Steidle had access to areas of the country off-limits to journalists, and the horrific images he captured there (which recall no less than the hellish tableaux in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, right down to all the Janjaweed’s pretty horses) have been met with equal measures of outrage and indifference.
Remarkably, the most potentially problematic aspect of Devil—that it approaches an African crisis from the perspective of a white American protagonist—is its strongest asset. For better and worse, Steidle is an ideal proxy for the film’s target audience: Politically naive and hungry for adventure, he’s accustomed to seeing injustice remedied with a gun.