The first western journalist to report from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur is to produce a feature film based on his experiences in the region, after he became increasingly frustrated with the limits on news reporting which prevented him telling his story.
Phil Cox, working with producer Catherine Bailey, seeks to recreate the plight of four child refugees that he met when he first reported from Darfur in 2003.
Cox helped draw the world’s attention to the problems in Darfur, when his reports were broadcast by Channel 4 in early 2004 and picked up by broadcasters worldwide.
Cox, 30, said the immediacy of broadcast news meant – that despite its best intentions – it could not fully grasp the extent of such a widescale problem as the refugee crisis in Darfur.
‘On the ground, you’re talking to people, but with reportage you often cannot get beyond a soundbite or stereotype [like] crying – which can often be what you have to do to get [viewers’] attention.
‘But within that, there are great characters and stories that, through the medium, just weren’t coming across and I felt very frustrated and wanted to do something deeper and richer.”
Children of Darfur, the film’s working title, has secured backing from French producers Le Film D’ici after trailers were shown at Cannes
The film will feature some of the people Cox met while reporting from Darfur. He was prompted to visit Darfur after reading Amnesty International reports citing thousands of refugees fleeing the region in the summer of 2003. He was the first videojournalist to make contact with the Sudanese Liberation Army, fighting the government in the region.
The film will also address the media’s response to the crisis, which at the time of Cox’s first outing to Darfur was firmly fixed on conflict elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘One of the problems with Darfur is that it takes a lot of money, a lot of time [to cover],’said Cox. ‘You can’t see the conflict unless you are on the ground for a long time.
‘It doesn’t lend itself to sexy news or hard news and, once again, it’s black Africans stumbling through storms and [broadcasters say]: ‘we’ve seen this all before’.”
Cox’s Children of Darfur is expected to start filming later this year.