22 February 2007

Lost Boys.


From a review of a new documentary about the settlement of Sudan's "Lost Boys" in America:

“God grew tired of us. He tired of bad deeds and wanted to finish us.” These apocalyptic words of a refugee from the brutal civil war in Sudan provide the title for a new documentary, directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn and narrated by Nicole Kidman. God Grew Tired of Us chronicles the resettlement of three refugees (John, Daniel, and Panther) from Sudan, as they move first to Kenya and then to the United States. The result of Quinn’s work, which follows a different group of refugees from and for a longer period of time than the 2003 film The Lost Boys of Sudan, is a crisply edited and unadorned film, consisting mostly of interviews with the boys both before they leave for America and over a four-year period after they reach the U.S.

The film’s restraint and sobriety render it a powerful vehicle for communicating the horrors of genocide, a realistic appraisal of America as a land of second chances, and a moving depiction of the irrepressible work ethic and deep religious faith of the refugees.

. . .

The most difficult adjustment is to the loss of the community that defined their very existence in Africa. In coming to America, the boys suffer a double separation: from families in native Sudan and then from fellow lost boys. One of them observes, “In Africa, we were a large group. Here, we are only four; it is not enough.” The individualism of American life forces them to unlearn lessons they learned in their refugee camp, such as that “the best way when someone’s suffering is to involve yourself in his problem.”

The sense of duty to family is rooted not just in their traditional way of life in which numerous generations live together and rely on one another, but also in their Christian faith. Echoing St. Paul, they speak of individuals as having different talents or gifts in accord with which each person has a duty or a role. As Christmas approaches, one of the boys captures their rather direct, biblical faith when he states, “In Africa, Christmas is a time to prepare ourselves spiritually to receive Jesus Christ.” Without any hint of cynicism, they wonder about the point of our Christmas celebrations: Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and shopping.

The power of the faith of the refugees is clear from their undaunted hope in the face of the horrors they have witnessed. One young man describes how, because of his height, at the age of 13 he was put in charge of 1,200 young persons. His first lesson was “how to bury the dead bodies.” No wonder he was led to ponder the biblical account of the end of time. It seemed to be the “last day, as people say in the bible,” when “Jesus will come and the “earth will be judged.” Without heavy moralizing or inordinate attention to violence, the film, which ends with an emotional scene of reunion, moves the hearts and minds of viewers to make judgments about genocide, about America, and about religious faith.

 

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