The impact of his first big-screen documentary may not be fully appreciated for years. Even with Don Cheadle and George Clooney as principle characters in the 2007 film Darfur Now, it’s not easy to get moviegoers flooding to a flick about African genocide. That director Ted Braun even got the movie made, however, provides moviemakers everywhere with a lesson for the ages: Every solution begins with a conversation.

“My first day in Darfur, I met with a government official who regarded me with a cauldron of rage and hatred in his eyes, for no reason that I could fathom other than that I was from the United States,” says Braun. “He could have, quite simply, brought our production to a halt. At that moment, on my first day in the region, I realized I had a responsibility to engage the world, particularly the Arab-speaking, Muslim world, in a way that we can hear and understand each other. It was my only way forward. So rather than defend myself and argue, I decided to listen to him. It was a revelation.”

Faced with similar daily negotiations, enduring numerous moments where he and his crew could have been shot and left for dead, Braun emerged with four months of remarkable footage. The result was Darfur Now’s unforgettable story of six disparate activists linked by almost unspeakable human tragedy.

“I think the first step, simple as it seems, was to listen,” offers Braun. “That’s the beginning of respect—respect each of us deserves.”

On Tuesday, May 27 Warner Independent will release Darfur Now on DVD. Visit our Contests page to enter to win a copy of your own!

To read more excerpts and interviews with the 2008 Moviemakers of the Planet honorees, pick up a copy of MovieMaker‘s Winter 2008 edition.