GOD GREW TIRED OF US
The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
 

Directed by Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker. 2006.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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Like college students after exam grades have been posted, boys in the U.N. refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, gather around a wooden board to look for their names on a stapled piece of paper. Finding them means a chance for a new life. Not finding their name means more waiting and hoping. Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker’s documentary God Grew Tired of Us chronicles the odyssey of members of the Dinka tribe of Sudan who emigrate to America after years of hardship in a refugee camp in Kenya, some of the survivors of the people that have come to be known as the Lost Boys of Sudan. They are part of what remains of 27,000 Sudanese boys who escaped from their civil-war ravaged country in 1983 and walked more than one thousand miles over a period of five years, first to Ethiopia and then to Kenya in search of relief from government oppression and civil war.  

The subject matter may sound depressing, but in the hands of Quinn and his team who spent more than four years in the project, the result leaves us feeling good about humanity. Though there is little historical background about the civil war or its causes and only a few words about how the Muslims in the north attacked the Christians in the south and threatened to kill or maim all underage boys, the film is not about the past but about the future. Produced by Brad Pitt and narrated by Nicole Kidman, God Grew Tired of Us centers around three boys who were given the opportunity to come to the U.S. after years of struggle for survival.  

The boys are John Bul Dau, Panther Bior, and Daniel Abul Pach, all handsome, articulate, and highly motivated. Panther and Daniel end up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and John goes to Syracuse, New York, two of twenty-three states who accept the Sudanese Lost Boys. We get a real sense of what they are up against the minute we see them boarding a plane for the first time. No one bothers to tell them that butter is a spread and not to be eaten whole. When shown their new apartments in their new environment, they are amazed that they each can sleep in a single bed with a mattress and are wide-eyed when shown how to use electricity, garbage, and toilet facilities.  

The first trip to the supermarket is another perplexing occasion. When shown a donut covered with sprinkles, one justifiably asks whether or not this is food. They are told that in the West, they don’t have to cook potatoes but can eat them out of a paper bag labeled as chips but they are not told that it contains little but empty calories without a hint of nutrition. The film flies by in less than an hour and a half and we only scratch the surface of the problems that arise during their first year in their new country but their growing sense of loneliness and cultural isolation and their economic exploitation is not glossed over and we often wonder if perhaps coming to America was not the best idea.  

John has to get up at 4AM to be driven to a factory job one hour away and to wait for two hours in the cold before the factory even opens. Others work two or three jobs, lamenting the fact that they never can see their friends. They wonder aloud how a society can function when everyone lives in fear of their neighbor, but no answers are forthcoming. What is astonishing is their mental toughness in pursuit of their goals and the film shows their efforts to attend schools, build a support community for other Lost Boys in the States, and make enough money to visit or provide help for their families and friends in Africa.  

God Grew Tired of Us is a paean to the human spirit that avoids sentimentality and brings us closer to what is truly important in life: closeness to family, knowing who we are, remembering where we came from, and a desire to help others. We feel good about these boys and the opportunities they have received but wonder about the lives of those left behind - other refugees and lost boys and girls around the world whose stories would probably not be as commercially viable. “Everything has an end”, says John Bul Dau in celebrating his new surroundings, yet for millions of others the end is not in sight. 

GRADE: A- 

Howard Schumann
 
 
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