Alic Garang stood in an emptying Salt Lake City movie theater Thursday
[Jan. 26] after watching God Grew Tired of Us, a Sundance
Film Festival documentary about the “Lost Boys” of Sudan.
Garang, now living in Salt Lake City, expresses his
thoughts as one of the Sudanese “Lost Boys“ after
a Sundance screening of “God Grew Tired of Us,“ a
documentary on the journey of youths from Sudan. (Francisco
Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)
credits had rolled and the theater lights had come up, but Garang's
emotions still flickered across his face.
film is so real that for me it's like I'm reliving the past,”
said the young man, who survived Sudan's brutal civil war and emigrated
five years ago to Salt Lake City, where he's an honors student in
economics at the University of Utah. “It depicts what really
friend and fellow Sudanese immigrant, Peter Kuot, had a more succinct
assessment of the movie: “It made me cry.”
two were among a half-dozen of Utah's 140 Lost Boys who saw the
film at the free special screening, arranged by the Sundance Institute.
Sure to be one of the most talked-about Sundance documentaries of
the year, God Grew Tired of Us follows three young Sudanese
men from Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp to America, where they adapt
to a bewildering foreign culture and build new lives.
Christopher Quinn begins the film with a brief recap of Sudan's
civil war, which in 1983 forced thousands of Christian boys from
southern Sudan to flee the advancing Muslim army from the north.
The Lost Boys, as they became known, journeyed more than 1,000 miles
on foot, battling thirst, famine and wild animals, before finding
refuge in Kenya.
then takes his cameras to the Kakuma camp, where in the spring of
2001 he introduces us to his three protagonists: ebullient Daniel
Abol Pach; his friend, the earnest Panther Bior; and the tall, dignified
John Bul Dau, whose deep concern for his fellow Sudanese drew the
filmmakers to him immediately.
Kuot listens to interviews with the director following a
of “God Grew Tired of Us.“ Kuot will be traveling
back to Sudan soon. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)
movie tracks the three immigrants to America, where in the summer
of 2001 they are resettled, with dozens of their countrymen, in
new homes: Pach and Bior in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Dau in Syracuse,
N.Y. The Sudanese, many of whom grew up in rural huts, gaze in childlike
wonder at such exotic urban conveniences as airport escalators,
flushing toilets and supermarkets groaning with fresh produce.
while previous Lost Boys documentaries ended with this fish-out-of-water
phase, Quinn kept filming. He tracked his subjects for more than
three years as they juggled menial jobs, enrolled in colleges and
gradually adjusted to the American way of life. He also documented
their inevitable feelings of dislocation, their bouts with loneliness,
their nostalgia for home and their concern over family and friends
determined early on that we'd be in for the long haul. It's not
just about arriving in America,” Quinn said. “Once they
got their footing . . . they began turning their eyes back on Africa.”
lends Quinn's film its emotional depth. Instead of falling prey
to selfishness or materialism, his three grounded, thoughtful and
charismatic stars never lose sight of those less fortunate back
home. All work two or three jobs to send money to friends and family
in Africa. Bior plans to open a school in southern Sudan, while
Dau has raised more than $90,000 to build a health
film ends on an emotional note as Dau locates his mother, whom he
had feared dead. After 20 years apart, mother and son reunite at
the Syracuse airport, the woman crying Dinka chants of celebration
while collapsing to the floor with joy. Later Bior returns to Africa
to fetch the woman he plans to marry.
films on such weighty topics typically struggle to get made, let
alone screened in theaters. But thanks to celebrity backers, God
Grew Tired of Us has solid commercial prospects. Quinn grew
up in Alexandria, Va., with actor Dermot Mulroney, who is married
to actress Catherine Keener. Mulroney and Keener loved the movie
and brought it to Brad Pitt, who helped fund the project and became
an executive producer. Keener also helped recruit Nicole Kidman
to narrate the film.
Grew Tired of Us had its Sundance premiere last Sunday [Jan.
22] in Park City, where it got a standing ovation. Pach, Bior and
Dau attended the screening; afterwards, an audience member slipped
Dau a check for $25,000 to help him complete his seven-room clinic.
Several distributors have shown interest in buying the film, and
Quinn is optimistic it will be in North American theaters later
Sudanese Lost Boys—some dislike the term on the grounds that
they're now neither—hope the movie gets a wide release.
film like this will get the word out to the American people who
might not know about the Lost Boys or even where Sudan is,”
said Garang, expressing dismay about the continuing civil war in
his homeland, where more than 2 million have died.
world has been giving a deaf ear to Sudan for a long time.”
and some Sudanese friends plan to return home for a visit this summer,
where he will be reunited with his mother for the first time in
19 years. Despite the violence that plagues his native country,
Garang remains hopeful that things will improve.
has a terrible past, and it should not be repeated,” he said.
more information on God Grew Tired of Us, visit www.godgrewtiredofus.com.
The film won both the grand jury award and the audience prize in
the documentary competition at Sundance.
Last fall, a coalition of Utahns started a nonprofit called the
Chier Foundation (www.chierfoundation.org) to fund education for
Lost Boys in Utah. (“Chier” is the Dinka word for “North
Star.”) Since its founding, the group has already funded 12
full scholarships and covered as many more students’ books
and other expenses. They are also working to expand into mentoring
programs for the boys. Chier is 501(c)(3) and all donations are