While Hollywood movies such as "Argo," inspired by the 1980 hostage crisis in Iran, and the upcoming "Zero Dark Thirty," about the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, transform past international crises into thrilling movie material, the new film "Across the Frontlines" plunges deep into an ongoing tragedy with no resolution in sight: the genocidal conflict in starving, war-ravaged Sudan.
"Across the Frontlines: Ending the Nuba Genocide" — to give the movie its full title — is an hourlong documentary produced by Memphis-based Operation Broken Silence, a nonprofit organization that works against "the growing threats of mass atrocities and human slavery in the world today," according to the group's website (operationbrokensilence.org).
The move premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday in a fundraiser at the Malco Ridgeway Four. Tickets are $10.
"When you find yourself standing in what the world calls a war zone and the only victims you see are not combatants, it becomes clear that this is more than just a war," Operation Broken Silence executive director Mark Hackett says in the film, during a visit to a village recently bombed by planes.
Constructed over "the past few months" from some 35 hours of "raw footage," according to Hackett, "Across the Frontlines" was shot with a hi-def digital camera and a discreetly concealed iPhone during a two-week mission to Sudan in June.
The Operation Broken Silence team included Hackett; board president Mark Gosney; Ryan Dalton, director of "anti-trafficking operations" (human "trafficking" includes sex slavery and slavery in general); Pradip Ayer, mission pastor at First Evangelical Church, which helped sponsor the trip; and Ismail Kunda, a translator from the Sudanese community in Memphis.
Because Sudan does not allow media coverage of its war zones, the team entered Sudan through South Sudan, a nation that became independent only in July 2011. The disputed border area, which includes the Nuba Mountains region, inhabited by some 800,000 Nuba who primarily don't share the Arabic language or Muslim religion of the rest of the country, remains the site of much of the "massacres and bombing of villages," Hackett said.
Earlier this year, actor George Clooney was part of a group that traveled to the Nuba region to bring attention to the atrocities, but Hackett said the volunteer Operation Broken Silence team captured footage in previously undocumented areas that provides graphic proof of the targeting of civilians.
"Some people are calling it genocide by attrition," said Hackett, 24. "It's a very old war tactic. They're bombing people as they go out to the field to tend to their crops and livestock. So they're starving them to death. They're creating environmental situations that make it very difficult for these people to survive."
Sadly, tragedy is not new to Sudan: Current President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir was indicted as a war criminal in 2008 by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for ordering genocidal actions that led to the much-publicized starvation that ravaged the Darfur region of Sudan.
With Hackett as the credited director and Witt Allen and Josh Boyd as editors, "Across the Frontlines" is intended to help raise awareness about the atrocities in Sudan, to increase international pressure on the Sudanese government and to raise funds for medical supplies and other humanitarian efforts.
The movie also might bring more attention to Operation Broken Silence, founded in 2007 in reaction to Darfur. With an annual budget of about $35,000, the organization operates out of an office at the Memphis Urban Young Life center at 1177 Poplar, with a staff of fewer than a dozen volunteers.
"The film itself is aimed at globally minded citizens," said Hackett, nephew of former Memphis mayor Dick Hackett. He said screenings of the movie will take place in other cities in the next few months, before the movie becomes available online as an education and awareness tool.