Saturday, 19 February 2011



Let's get one thing straight: Uwe Boll is NOT the worst director in the world. Granted he's made some terrible films - Postal is absolutely unspeakable - but pretty much every director with any track record has made some terrible films. Some directors make nothing but terrible films - Lloyd Kaufman, Adam Mason, Rob Zombie. Uwe Boll may not be troubling the Bafta shortlists but he's not that bad; his reputation appears to come from adaptations of video games. And it's true that Alone In The Dark is pretty awful. But House Of The Dead is an entirely acceptable, perfunctory zombie movie whose principal annoyance is the shameless Sega promotion. Seed is actually disturbingly well made, though the inclusion of animal cruelty footage (from PETA) over the opening credits is unjustified. And in The Name Of The King and Bloodrayne are silly, disposable films (admittedly Bloodrayne 2 was just dull). At the very least, Boll's movies are generally technically competent and surprisingly well cast.

But what happens when a director with the reputation for being a second-rate hack tries to make A Real Film About Real Events? Darfur is an unflinching film detailing the casual horrors of the genocide in Sudan, as seen through the eyes of a group of Western journalists reporting on the atrocities. For the first 40 minutes or so we see the village and villagers, hear their stories of abuse, rape, torture, murder and child abduction at the hands of the Janjaweed: death squads bent on exterminating the entire population of the area - and even as the journalists are there, the gangs turn up and force them away. Even as they leave, they - and we - know that the village is utterly doomed.

And we see the carnage, the rapes, the dismemberment, the infanticide, in living colour and loving detail (incidentally covered by a ridiculously lenient 15 certificate). It's an angering film, and deliberately so - and tailed with a caption to the effect that "the fact that we have not stopped the genocide proves we have not learned from history". The African Union troops as depicted have no mandate to interfere or engage, and are only permitted to observe and report - the gangs have no interest in what the journalists report as they know nothing will be done. The Janjaweed are depicted as nothing short of homicidal bastards, merrily butchering women and babies in the name of a cause.

In the event Darfur would probably have been taken more seriously if it was A Joe Bloggs Film rather that a Uwe Boll movie - the auteur's reputation counts against him somewhat. After all, would you go and see Saving Private Ryan if it had been made by the bloke behind the Police Academy sequels? I'm sorely tempted to believe that Boll is sincere in his intentions for this film - but then I look on the IMDb and see his latest film is Auschwitz and that troubles me when it's coming from a German director. Darfur is certainly not an entertainment; it is, I believe, an issue movie, well made and well-intentioned. Whether it's enough to rehabilitate Boll in the minds of filmgoers is another matter.

[ADDENDUM: I've been giving a lot of thought to why I was less bothered by the one-sided political tone of Darfur than I was with the tone of Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin. In both films, the villains are mass-murdering butchers, the victims are peaceful and dignified, and the West (Darfur's international journalists and Filistin's half-American tour guide) are powerless to intervene. There are two reasons. Firstly, I do think Darfur is intended as a sincere and sobering "wake up call" of a movie whlie Filistin is primarily an action film; the first half of Darfur has a genuine documentary feel about it (you wouldn't know this was from the director of House Of The Dead or Postal). Secondly, Darfur is clearly anti-war while Filistin does give the impression of seeking to justify the continuation of conflict, and to be honest, an anti-war stance feels better than a pro-war stance.]


The film is available here:

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