The Devil Came on Horseback
Review by Ross Anthony

With the war in Iraq still of great concern to people around the world, of course, many Americans are trying their best to understand its complexities and, at least, hope to find solutions before more people are killed. With such a seriously impending political/military endeavor seemingly growing more tense instead of less, news of atrocities elsewhere in the world finds so many Americans perhaps unready, unavailable, already “internationally” overloaded. As one of those Americans, I listen when I hear news of Darfur. Is there Genocide here? I don’t understand the situation. George Clooney seems like a nice enough guy – but how much can he know of the area? And just what can America do until it solves its own international messes? I don’t know the answers to so many questions. So when the chance came to screen this documentary by an American Eyewitness in Darfur -- a young man armed with a camera, a good heart, and a security pass as “military observer” with the African Union -- yes, I wanted to see what he saw while recording the conflict for six months from within the borders of Darfur.

As best I can judge the intentions of another individual through the smoke and fire of documentary-cinema, I have to say this Brian Steidle seems quite genuine and compassionate. Genuine and compassionate -- two qualities too often illusive in all of us and tragically absent when gone MIA in elected officials in whom citizens of the world trust with their very lives. According to the film, the phrase “Devil on Horseback” is the translation of Janjaweed – the Arab military forces which the documentary demonstrates have been hired by the Sudanese government to attack its own people in Darfur. The documentary plainly, honestly, and with firsthand interviews and photographs makes its case that these attacks are clearly genocide and as such should outrage the international community into an action that will result in the safety of Darfur’s victimized civilians. From my small frame of reference, as a citizen of the world, I’m not sure how to define genocide, but whenever innocents die, I support swift solutions. How do I support those solutions? Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps by advocating for peace in an article meant to be a film review. Perhaps, by writing books that celebrate life and love and encourage each of us to value the human heart – our own and those of our fellow man, woman, child – be they from our nation or not. Perhaps just verbalizing my belief that this world can grow up, that it is not the nature of man to kill other men, but rather the nature of humankind to work toward improving its lot. It’s so easy to look back on history and absolve ourselves of responsibility by proclaiming man to be damned to war. Here, let me paraphrase Helen Keller, “The world is slowing bettering itself. Where in past history did people ever care about helping the poor?”

Devils on Horseback? Really? Devils? I’ve heard more than once our President labeled as the Devil (and these quotes from Americans) and I’ve heard our President blame the “Axis of Evil.” I know in my heart that the President is not the Devil and that there is no Axis of Evil. There is conflict. There is a struggle for power and money and resources. There is very personal greed and insecurity, and perhaps vendetta, making the decisions in the minds of the few people with deadly weapons. And because of that… a little girl on her way to school in Iraq becomes dismembered. A stockbroker with a family of four at home in New York will never be seen by them again. A jovial housewife with a great voice and a knack for making villagers crack up laughing is raped and left for dead while gathering wood in Darfur.

Here’s a direct quote from Ms. Keller: "I know what evil is. Once or twice I have wrestled with it, and for a time felt its chilling touch on my life: so I speak with knowledge when I say that evil is of no consequence, except as a sort of mental gymnastic."

As for the documentary, what it does lack is more info about this SLA (the majority rebel group in Darfur). Coincidently, just the morning of this writing, a Sudanese Ambassador in an interview with CNN commented that the SLA has not signed an agreement for peace penned by the international community including the African Union. Why not? Brian makes little comment on the SLA, it seems his concerns are more with the people just trying to survive.

The world is a simple blue-green ball. Yet we all struggle to define nations and political parties. Perhaps that’s useful for organizational purposes, but it’s just starting to seem like a lot of people taking sides. Taking sides, pointing fingers. What of creative thought? Of reason itself? If we must take a side, let’s take the side of the school girl, the stockbroker and village housewife. Isn’t it so obvious how very very much they have in common with us? Let’s relax the grip we have on “our” side. Trust again our own brains. Our true identities aren’t “our” sides. We are a mass of individuals. Beautiful individuals. Thank you Brian for your bravery to go directly into the eye of the storm and for your immense courage to share what you have seen with your sincerity and compassion. I do hope you will inspire all of us to overcome our fear of being without sides.

-- Book Contest --

  • The Devil Came on Horseback. Copyright © 2007.
  • Directed by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern.
  • Produced by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern, Gretchen Wallace and Jane Wells at Break Thru/Global Grassroots/Three Generations.

Grade..........................B+ (2.5/4)

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Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Jun-2007 12:00:43 PDT