At a D.C. screening of the film “The Devil Came on Horseback,” former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle looked tired, but determined. It was a fitting look after dedicating his whole life to a cause that desperately needed attention.
“The Devil Came on Horseback” is the ongoing story of Steidle and his efforts to bring international attention and action to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Steidle’s story began in 2003 when, after leaving the Marines, he accepted a job as a patrol leader with the African Union.
Although this appointment was supposed to entail monitoring a ceasefire, what Steidle actually witnessed during his time in Sudan was not the end of a conflict but instead the one-sided attempt to exterminate Sudan’s black African population.
Steidle’s unique position within the African Union was one that gave him unfettered access to what was happening in the region, and brought him closer and closer to Darfur.
Armed with a camera instead of a gun, Steidle managed to capture more than 1,000 haunting images. Through his photographs, the viewer comes to understand not only the horrors he faced everyday, but also the growing frustrations of not being able to help effectively. Eventually, Steidle left Sudan in the hopes that what he had seen and heard would help to bring much-needed aid to the region.
Over the course of the film, Steidle’s disappointments mount as he faces politicians who are unwilling to help, and an ill-informed public.
“The Devil Came on Horseback” is an undeniably compelling film, which manages to simultaneously captivate and horrify. The power of the film stems from Steidle’s narration, which accompanies video footage of his time in the Sudan and his efforts to incite change back at home. News clips and heartbreaking personal interviews with Sudanese people add to the pull of the film, but the most important aspect of “The Devil Came on Horseback” are unquestionably Steidle’s photographs.
A picture is worth a thousand words has never been more true than it is in this film. Steidle’s pictures are graphic, detailed, and upsetting, which is why it is so important that we see them.
“The Devil Came on Horseback” presents the continuing genocide in Darfur clearly and in moral absolutes, so that the viewer is challenged and compelled to also want change.
Steidle himself comes across as straightforward, honest and completely without pretension, which is why he is such a strong voice for a people who would otherwise have none.
The goal of the film is ultimately to educate people and excite change, so hopefully it will be successful in doing so.
At the closing of the film, Steidle is asked if he considers himself a whistleblower.
“No, I wouldn’t call it that,” he said uncomfortably. “A whistleblower? No, I wouldn’t. I mean, I’m just some guy that tried to wake up the conscience of a bunch of people. That’s all.”
Whatever you want to call Brian Steidle, he is a man at the center of something very big and very important, and this film will certainly make you want to follow his lead.
“The Devil Came on Horseback” is currently playing at the Avalon Theatre on Connecticut Avenue. It can also be seen on campus as part of the Fall Film Series on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Marvin Center Continental Ballroom. It will also be released on DVD on Oct. 30. For more information about Darfur and what you can do to help, please visit www.savedarfur.org.