Editor's Note: The advocacy group Operation Broken Silence released a documentary this week shot in Sudan's Nuba Mountains. Producer Mark Hackett wrote this guest blog post about his visit to the war-torn region and why OBS decided to make a film.
Right now, the situation in Sudan’s besieged Nuba Mountains is worsening by the day.
In June 2012, Operation Broken Silence sent an assessment team across the South Sudan border into SPLM-N territory in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. Our team witnessed the stunning results of the attempted genocide being waged against the Nuban people. Market places were without food to sell or completely abandoned. Small clinics had run out of the most basic first aid supplies. A failure to vaccinate an entire generation of children had recently led to a measles outbreak. We passed through deserted towns, some bombed out, others burned to the ground. Those who survived had already fled across the border into South Sudan or further north into the Nuba Mountains behind SPLM-N lines.
Witnessing these experiences was life changing, and many of the images we witnessed are permanently seared into my mind. Seeing so much good and evil, hatred and forgiveness, and hopelessness and hope has led to an extensive processing experience I am still working my way through. Seeing such destruction of humanity leaves its mark.
Upon returning home everyone had the same question: What happens next?
The idea and heart behind Operation Broken Silence has been simple from day one. The victims of mass atrocity crimes are almost always silenced, and our goal would always be to hold a microphone in front of them. Or, as Holocaust survivor and anti-genocide hero Elie Wiesel so eloquently stated: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
To best fulfill this idea that has become our identity, our answer was to create a documentary film like no other, one that blatantly held the microphone to the victims and amplified their voices to the world. This of course had obvious challenges, including filming in an extremely insecure environment, with minimal experience working with most forms of video work, and with no clear idea of what we would be able to capture with our brand-new DSLR camera. Planning any type of work in a conflict zone is difficult at best, and this particular mission came with extra security issues. We were soon blessed to have many talented people support us so we could create such a film.
“Across the Frontlines: Ending the Nuba Genocide” gathers eyewitness accounts, images of physical destruction, personal stories, and interviews with experts in the field in a creative way that highlights the issues on the ground, who the perpetrating parties are, and defines who the victim is. But what makes this documentary special and unique is the victims themselves. They fully experience the world’s abandonment of them every single day, and they were not shy in showing us what that looks like. They WANT their story to be heard and told in creative ways.
But the film does not end with detailed information about this catastrophe. It is also a call to action—one that we hope the world hears. We don’t claim to have all the answers and fully understand there are zero easy solutions. What we do know is that there are key action points globally-minded citizens can take to have a real impact in empowering the victims’ voices and saving lives now.
As the end of our trip to Sudan was nearing, I promised Nuban leaders in Yida refugee camp that we would do everything we could to bring more attention to the crimes being committed against them. If I had to say there was one thing we hope comes out of “Across the Frontlines,” it would be that it plays a role in bringing this violence to an end. Every human being deserves a shot at living a dignified life, and the simple fact that this right is being taken away from well over one million people is infuriating. I hope this film helps to create a sense of extreme urgency within the minds and hearts of ordinary people, and I hope they will use this newfound sense of urgency to hold world leaders accountable in bringing all of these crimes to a swift and permanent end.
Watch “Across the Frontlines” on YouTube.
Mark C. Hackett is the CEO and executive director of Operation Broken Silence. He is the producer of the new documentary film Across the Frontlines: Ending the Nuba Genocide. Operation Broken Silence is a nonprofit that strives to protect the innocent by confronting social affliction and building a new generation of abolitionists who envision a world without mass atrocities and modern slavery.