The Devil Came on Horseback explains how Brian Steidle left the marines to look for a job and found a calling. As an observer for the African Union in the Sudan, Steilde spent six months watching as a nation consumed itself -- as the Sudanese Arab-controlled government enacted systematic genocide against its black African citizens in Dafur. It's not that the government simply stood by as local militias, the Janjaweed, enacted murder, torture and rape against the local black villages and tribes -- the government was actively engaged in aiding and abetting the Janjaweed atrocities as a tool of policy. Steidle was used to action, to being part of forces working for the common good, but all he could do was watch and take pictures and document what happened after murder and mutilation cut across the land like a bitter burning wind, leaving ashes and ruined lives in their wake.
Journalists couldn't get access to the parts of the Sudan where Steidle was posted, but eventually -- driven by equal parts heartfelt outrage and horrified impotence -- he leaked his own pictures to the press in the hopes that the American people and government might be moved to action. Directed by Annie Sunderberg and Ricki Stern, The Devil Came on Horseback tells audiences what has happened in the Sudan through Steidle's own journey; it also shows us Steidle's journey from being just an observer to being an activist. The film incorporates Steidle's own photos and video footage, as well as follows him after his posting is over and he is testifiying before Congress. He briefs Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the Sudan. He watches. He waits. Nothing happens.