WASHINGTON – Previously unseen footage recorded by actor George Clooney and his journalist father, Nick, while traveling to the border of the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan will be aired Monday.
"A Journey to Darfur," which will be broadcast on AmericanLife TV Network, recounts the trip they made in April with a photographer and another family member, flying by small plane into Sudan and visiting a village just outside the Darfur border.
At the documentary's premiere Wednesday attended by members of Congress and Martin Luther King III, the Clooneys -- with George speaking by video conference from California -- discussed their film and their concern that governments are not doing enough to stop what the younger Clooney called the first genocide of the 21st century.
"I will remember forever how the people there were hanging from such a thin thread and there were so many ways for them to die and yet they were optimistic," George Clooney told the audience.
Clooney said he was pessimistic that the plight of the refugees would improve in the short term but hoped to increase political pressure for international action.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Nick Clooney said the idea for the trip and the film arose from conversations with his son about newspaper articles on Darfur.
"We couldn't figure out why so few of these stories were on the front page. We were trying to think of ways that we could affect that," he said. "George obviously has this currency of his own -- his enormous celebrity -- and so he said, `Pop why don't we go over there."'
The Clooneys say they wanted the details of their journey to reach an audience that would not otherwise focus on Darfur.
They recorded stories from refugees of the conflict, which has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and forced 2.5 million people from their homes. The Clooneys then traveled to a refugee camp in Chad, just west of the Darfur border, continuing to interview survivors who witnessed atrocities.
The fighting in Darfur began in February 2003 when the region's ethnic African population revolted against what they saw as decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. The government launched a counterinsurgency in which the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, committed widespread atrocities.
Nick Clooney said he has been affected by the story of a woman he met on the trip. She told him of fleeing an attack on her village by government planes and militias with her three children. She was able to run with her baby in her arms, and her 13-year-old son keeping up and her 6-year-old son behind.
"She said she called to the 6-year-old as she ran, and heard his voice become more and more faint," he recalled. The woman had not seen the child since, he said.
Though the Clooneys had hoped to enter Darfur from Chad, they were prevented from crossing the border by threat of violence, Nick Clooney said.
"Everywhere we went there were trucks with kids with AK-47s." he said.
Since returning, the Clooneys have campaigned energetically for international action. Nick Clooney has taken his stories to college campuses, while George Clooney has argued on two occasions at the United Nations that millions of lives are in danger. In December, he met then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to brief him about a delegation he led to China and Egypt arguing for pressure from those countries on Sudan. He has also made numerous television appearances.
The Clooneys hope they can help move Darfur back onto the front page and higher on the political agenda.
"Darfur is never going to take the place of Iraq or Afghanistan on top of the news," Nick Clooney said. "I want to get politicians' constituents talking about this, to get it to bubble up from underneath and onto their agenda."