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Karim Chrobog's Delightful Dilemma

Emmanuel Jal and Karim Chrobog (Photo courtesy of Karim Chrobog)

Don't you just hate when this happens: You have to miss your own movie premiere -- because you have to go accept a big award that the movie just won?

Such was Karim Chrobog's inconvenience on Friday. His documentary "War Child" -- the story of Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese child soldier turned London hip-hop star -- won a prize from the International Documentary Association, forcing him to abandon his opening-night party in D.C. to mingle with the likes of Werner Herzog and Morgan Spurlock at the L.A. ceremony.

"I would have loved to be in D.C. with my friends and family," Chrobog, 30, told us by phone from California on Friday, "but it's nice to be here."

The award was for best use of news footage in a documentary; Chrobog managed to find an obscure French news program that had captured Jal at age 7 in a refugee camp. "War Child" picked up a clutch of other laurels on the festival circuit but still faces an uphill battle finding audiences; good ticket sales in its one-week showing at E Street Cinema could help it get a national release, but "the market is really tough now," said Chrobog, who is working on getting the doc shown at colleges and other schools.

The name may sound familiar: Chrobog is the son of former German ambassador to the United States J├╝rgen Chrobog; the Chrobogs, including Karim's mother and two brothers, were abducted and held hostage in Yemen for several days in late 2005. "One of those crazy life experiences," he says now. "It gave us an insight into a culture no one knows about -- the Bedouin life and culture, which is dying out." Fodder for a future documentary? Possibly, he says.

By The Reliable Source  |  December 8, 2008; 1:05 AM ET
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