Bernard-Henri Lévy, Mia Farrow, and Some New Age Music Open the PEN World Voices Fest

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Earlier, Daily Intel reported on a meeting of the minds between Bernard-Henri Lévy and Mia Farrow, preparing a joint statement on intervention in Darfur to be read at the first event of the PEN World Voices Festival. At last night's lecture at the French Institute Alliance Française (complete with both Perrier and Evian bottles for the guests), their methods of publicizing the crisis were markedly different: He was the head and she was the heart.

BHL, his shirt not quite as open as commonly reported, went first. After some initial trouble with the computer projections, he was off on a heavily accented rehash of his clandestine 2007 journey into Sudan ("Smuggling myself across ze bordeur to Chad…") Virtually all the photos featured a couple of ragtag guerrillas — those defending the civilians — alongside Lévy, who was often pointing into the distance like Plato in the famous Rafael painting. After mentioning oil and China, Lévy went further into abstraction, saying "the real reason is not an economical one, it is an ideological one." Apparently, the French and American left are ignoring Darfur because it contradicts their own anti-colonialist, anti-racist narratives. Let's go out on a limb here and say that the likes of Noam Chomsky are not to blame for America's indifference to Darfur.

As Farrow began talking, all wide eyes and platinum curls, some distracting background music — of the New Age, Deep Forest–ish variety — was playing. Finally she asked them to turn the volume … up. We still managed to hear her — Farrow knows how to speak for the back row — and after a while the music blended, giving the impression of an awkward documentary or a spoken-word performance. That said, Farrow — no Madonna — knew every detail of the refugee camps she'd visited, the wounds documented onscreen, the truly horrible children's drawings of atrocities personally witnessed. It made us want to run out and douse some Olympic torches tout de suite. When someone in the audience asked the world's silliest question — whether activists should incorporate "the native music" of Darfur into their campaigns, in the manner of the apartheid struggle — she answered, with impatience, "Right now they just need to survive." —Boris Kachka

Earlier: Mia Farrow and Bernard-Henri Lévy Decide to Issue Joint Darfur Demands, Over Lunch