God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan
Directed by Christopher Quinn, Tommy Walker. Narrated by Nicole Kidman. (2007, PG, 89 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Feb. 2, 2007
“Do you have a lot of freedom here that you didn’t have?” a woman asks, cluelessly, while floating in a public pool in Pittsburgh. With her are Panther Bior and Daniel Abol Pach, refugees since childhood from their villages in the south of war-torn Sudan. After wandering sub-Saharan Africa on the brink of starvation and 10 more years spent in a United Nations camp in Kakuma, Kenya, they’ve come to the United States for a home, for opportunity, for hope – all freedoms indeed. They’ll also find sprinkle doughnuts, packaged food, second and third jobs, isolation, homesickness, survivor’s guilt, racism, depression, and the tyranny of the alarm clock. (“This is one of the most important things,” says the expatriate volunteer who sets up their clock-radio.) Winner of the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance 2006, the film follows three “lost boys” – also including the tall, imposing John Bul Dau, a camp leader who evolves into an official advocate for the diaspora of young men and women resettled from their homeland – to Pittsburgh and Syracuse, N.Y., chronicling three years of their journey. There’s only a slight bit of exposition regarding the Second Sudanese Civil War – narrator Nicole Kidman coolly explains that the British combined two separate colonies to form Sudan in the 1950s, heedless of religious and ethnic differences, and that oil was involved. Or as Bul Dau sums up, “People come at night with guns, and if you are not Muslim, they can kill you.” More factual rigor wouldn’t hurt, but directors Quinn and Walker delve instead into the lives of their subjects with a fly-on-the-wall candor, revealing as much about American life as they do of African life. Like much of the population in southern Sudan, the boys are Christians, yet they balk at the frippery and pointless ritual of American Christmas. (“Is Santa Claus in the Bible?” demands an indignant Bul Dau.) Even the boys’ habit of walking in groups comes under attack by local shopkeepers bothered by the sight of multiple black Africans. Yet, ultimately, the film affirms that if it is possible to survive when you have lost your home, family, and country, it is possible to start over and prevail.