The Devil Came on Horseback presents a first-person account of the genocide in Darfur. Former Marine Captain Brian Steidle joined the African Union in 2004 to help monitor the cease-fire in Sudan. As he puts it, All I had was a camera, a pen, and paper. I was totally unprepared for what I'd see.
An unarmed military civilian, he describes his observations, via voice-over and audio recordings, as filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern alternate between their contemporary footage and his images of slaughtered civilians and incinerated villages. When his contract ends, Steidle leaves in disillusionment. He wrote his reports and took his pictures, but nothing changed.
Since reporters lacked the same degree of access, he goes to The New York Times, and they publish his photographs. The soldier-turned-activist proceeds to spread the word everywhere he can. Aside from Steidle, the film features his sister Gretchen Wallace, founder of Global Grassroots (an organization working with female victims in Sudan and Rwanda), and Senator Barack Obama, who has also made Darfur his personal mission.
The title comes from a loose translation of janjaweed, the government-backed Arab militias behind the atrocities to which Steidle bore witness. (Steidle and his sister use the same title for the book they wrote together.) As in their previous documentary, The Trials of Darryl Hunt, Sundberg and Stern maintain a measured tone, but their subject's horrifying images speak for themselves. The Devil Came on Horseback is accompanied by Wallace's Supporting Survivors, a short film about Global Grassroots.