Sand and Sorrow (2007)

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Released 6-Oct-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 92:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Paul Freedman
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring George Clooney
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Jamie Dunlap


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The phrase "Never Again" echoes through this documentary both as a warning bell and a chime of disappointment and dashed hopes. It is expressed by the interviewees, journalists, politicians and humanitarians like Elie Weisel who has seen with his own eyes the consequences of ignorance. But is the call loud enough for all to hear? Is this film too late to do any real good?

Sand and Sorrow is a 2007 documentary about the tragedy that is Darfur. Coming on the back of the 10 year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and the failure of the international community to respond to that disaster, the war in Darfur (the western side of Sudan) was the humanitarian nightmare that no one knew about until, perhaps, it was already too late. The war, such as it was, had been dribbling along for some time but erupted into mass violence in 2003.

Narrated by executive producer George Clooney the film attempts, with mixed success, to detail both the history of the struggle and the results of the fighting. It is most successful in charting the heartbreak, as men and women tell the familiar story of displacement from their arid homeland into teeming refugee camps. Meanwhile, just outside the camps lurk the murderous Janjaweed, the Government supported militia, waiting to kill the men who stray in search of firewood and rape the women. The film is alive with the individual suffering. Story after story of devastated lives and destroyed villages. Even after the danger has passed they may not be able to go back into their old villages as the Janjaweed threw children into the wells to poison them for years to come.

The story of Darfur is depressingly similar to the stories of ethnic clashes and terror from other regions in Africa - the Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Ivory Coast. It raises the same questions for the international community. When is it right to interfere? Is this just a Civil War? How exactly do you force a change?

The film tries to explain the origin of the conflict but struggles against the weight of civil politics. Essentially a war between the government and the rebels except that the innocent inhabitants of Darfur have been brought into the conflict by the racial hatred of the Arab Sudanese for the non-Arab Sudanese. Religion, for once, is not the basis - both are Muslims. Past that simple proposition there are a myriad of fighters, splinter groups and nasty government shenanigans. As usual, it is the arms traders who profit most from the conflict.

The use of the word "genocide" by then President Bush was encouraging for those seeking an end to the conflict but ultimately the US government was too committed to Iraq to send a major peace-keeping force into the region. As a result a badly under-resourced group of African soldiers were charged with observing and keeping the peace in a region that stretched for thousands of kilometres. As the footage taken by the peace keepers showed they were able to observe horrors but were simply unable to intervene.

Sand and Sorrow is an important film if for no other reason than to highlight the terrible struggle for life of inhabitants of that region. It is an object lesson in the fact that the doggedness of journalists (principally New York Times columnist Nick Kristof), combined with some peaceful support (in this case a group of students at a Chicago High School and activist Samantha Power) can sometimes move mountains. For Darfur it was the involvement of interested politicians, including a fresh faced Senator Obama, that helped focus US attention and accelerate the peace process.

The film was made in 2007 when peace talks were continuing, breaking down and starting again. Whilst the region may not feature high on the list of unfolding tragedies in 2010 there is still devastation aplenty in this dry, harsh land.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Sand and Sorrow is a HBO documentary composed of a variety of video sources.

The film comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

No one purchasing this film would be doing so for the visual quality. It consists of a series of talking head interviews and real news footage from the region and other footage from the refugee camps.

As might be expected some of the footage is in pretty bad quality and condition. Nevertheless it is essential and bring the ring of truth to proceedings.

Leaving aside the limitations of the source material the documentary has been well transferred to DVD.

There are no general subtitles aside from those required to translate the local language to English. These are burned into the print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
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Overall

Audio

    Sand and Sorrow has an English Dolby Digital soundtrack running at 224 Kb/s.

This is fine for a film that largely consists of talking heads and television footage. The dialogue and interview materials can be heard clearly. Everything appears to be in audio sync.

There are no technical problems with the sound.

Music comes from a variety of sources. The original score is, not surprisingly, redolent of the African desert with exotic instruments and tribal drums galore.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Sand and Sorrow has been released in other Regions although this appears to be the only instance where the widescreen aspect ratio has been preserved

Summary

    Looked at through different glasses the conflict in Darfur takes on different meanings. Terribly complex in its history it is perhaps not as easy to categorize as this film makes out. With good reason the film focuses on the one indisputable fact- that the innocent non-combatants were the losers in this war.

The film is perhaps too late coming to focus any attention on the region but it is a timely reminder that we as world citizens must be vigilant to prevent this type of mass killing, whether you call it genocide or not, from happening again.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, January 11, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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