In 2004, the US Congress unanimously agreed that the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan was genocide. The Devil Came on Horseback is an urgent plea for international action. Like An Inconvenient Truth, it follows a protagonist vying for the cause, former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle. Steidle wandered into the belly of the beast after taking an assignment to monitor a cease-fire in Sudan, just as the Darfur conflict was escalating. Having unique military access, he witnessed the genocide first-hand, and hasn’t stopped rallying for intervention in Darfur since. The filmmakers clearly aim to a pin a similar effect on their audience. Yet they do so without too much emphasis on one man’s heroism, and restraint in the use of graphic imagery — admirable, since Steidle took more than 1,000 photographs in Sudan from 2004-2005.
At the heart of the international debate over Darfur is the recognition of history repeating itself, and The Devil Came on Horseback may have missed some opportunities in this regard by sticking to a straight path through Steidle’s journey. Still, his story is unfinished, and that is the film’s final unsettling triumph.