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God Grew Tired of Us Widescreen (DVD)
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God Grew Tired of Us is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed documentary, narrated by Nicole Kidman, that explores the indomitable spirit of three "Lost Boys" from the Sudan who are forced to leave their homeland due to a tumultuous civil war. The documentary chronicles their triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversaries and a relocation to America, where the Lost Boys build active and fulfilling new lives, but remain deeply committed to helping friends and family they have left behind.
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The documentary starts off showing the footage of the conflict and then we soon zone into a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya. It is touching to see these young men, now referred to as "the lost boys of Sudan" because they had nothing and no families left, forming makeshift families with deep interpersonal bonds. These young men also dream of finding their relatives who they lost when they had to flee their Sudanese villages very abruptly. Specifically, we meet three young men: Panther, John and Daniel. These young men are selected to live new lives in the USA; and the documentary follows them as they journey to America. We see them use an electric light switch for the very first time and they marvel at the ability of a refrigerator to keep food cold or even frozen. They need to be told how to use the restroom instead of a latrine and they receive much kindness and patience from the charities that help them acclimate to life in America.
Over time (this documentary covers a period of a little more than three years), we see them start to thrive. They can get jobs, go to school, buy cars--but they do complain that juggling all those jobs can be rough! However, they never seem to feel sorry for themselves; rather they display enormous personal strength and I truly admire John, Panther and Daniel.
In addition, with the passage of time the three young men begin to experience ever increasing separation anxiety from their homeland and those they left behind. It moved me greatly to see these young men sending so much money back to the refugee camp in Kenya so that the refugees there could have a better quality of life. One young man, John, finds his parents and his determination to help them financially when they can't even afford clothing is truly exemplary. The moment when he is reunited with his mother at an airport in America after at least twelve years of separation is one of the most emotional I've ever witnessed.
The DVD extras include a commentary and there's a very well done "making of" featurette as well.
Overall, I highly recommend this well done documentary. It greatly enhanced my understanding of the Sudanese War and on a human level it is very moving indeed.
Using footage of the aftermath of the civil war between northern Muslim Arabs and the beleaguered southern Christians, we are shown long lines of refugees taking what little they have to Kenya where ghostly, emaciated figures wait warily in new lines for relief. Displacement adds to their anxiety as relatives become unaccounted for. Always concretely laying down the foundation of history, the film unflinchingly gives one a front seat to their predicament.
Enter Daniel Abol Pach, Panther Bior, and John Bul Dau. They are the movie's central focus. Like a few others, they are invited to the United States and offered the amenities of an apartment, a chance at employment, and the perks of our material benefits. Daniel and Panther live in Pittsburgh; John lives in Syracuse. It is a fascinating culture shock, one that shows their innocence in the face of our technology and their resolute determination to retain their culture. (As one example we see almost quiet awe as their guide explains indoor plumbing.) Always taking steps forward in opportunity, we see them work, experience bigotry, and come to terms with our way of life. ("America is a very strange place...[but] if you can manage, it`s a land of opportunity." --John Bul Dau)
While they thrive materially, they also experience separation anxiety. Much of the time is spent showing their efforts to improve conditions for their relatives and countryman of Kenya. Interviewing each man at key times is at the core of the movie. Each man is articulate about his anxieties and aspirations throughout. Visually the men's testimony is backed up by footage that is poignantly presented.
Writer/Director Christopher Quin has assembled a flowing presentation that lives up to `The National Geographic' name. 'God Grew Tired of Us' is profoundly titled for John's reflection of the Armageddon qualities of their native plight while he buried the dead at the tender age of ten. It is also our ticket to a broader horizon and better understanding. (Nicole Kidman narrates.) Fascinating.
If nothing else, watching "God Grew Tired of Us" will make Westerners realize just how much they take for granted in their daily lives. For this is a wonderful and deeply moving documentary about three young men from Africa and their first, awe-inspiring encounter with the modern world.
John, Daniel and Panther are refugees who fled Sudan when war and genocide ravaged that once-beautiful country in the 1980`s. They were part of a group of young boys who made an arduous and, for many, deadly trek from Southern Sudan to a refugee camp in Northern Kenya (those who survived the journey became known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan"). After living many years in substandard conditions at that site, 3,600 of the young men were given the opportunity to leave Kenya and start a new life in the United States. John, Daniel and Panther were three of those individuals.
As written and directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn (and narrated by Nicole Kidman), "God Grew Tired of Us" begins in despair, relating a heartbreaking tale of harrowing mass murder and deadly privation, and ends in hope, showing how one changed life can positively affect the lives of so many others the world over. For even though it vividly points out the bold line separating the haves from the have-nots in this world, the film also provides a great deal of optimism and humor, as the three young men explore the technological marvels of the strange new land in which they find themselves living: food that comes prepackaged from a freezer, staircases that move up and down seemingly of their own accord, hot and cold water that comes flowing out of a tap, light that appears at the command of a switch. One of the boys even admits to never having "seen" electricity before moving to America, and he worries over whether he will ever be able to master its use. But all is not roses and soft mattresses for the three men when they arrive in the U.S., for they must also work hard, establish themselves as members of their communities, and adjust to some of the "peculiarities" of American culture, such as a marked tendency towards suspicion and a lack of friendliness on the part of some of the people they meet. And, as with virtually all people who move to an alien yet economically advantaged society, they must cope not only with the loss of deeply-ingrained cultural traditions but a feeling of guilt for those they've left behind.
Yet, thanks to John, Daniel and Panther, "God Grew Tired of Us" becomes much more than a mere curiosity, a mere fish-out-of-water tale for the amusement of the Western elite. Through lengthy interviews, the three men provide a rich and thoughtful commentary on their lives, their experiences, their values, their goals and their aspirations. And though they struggle mightily with the psychic scars left by the traumas of their past, through their own inner strength and commitment - and never a hint of self-pity - they not only persevere to go on and make something of their own lives, but they are able to turn their personal tragedy into a force for Good, inspiring others in their neighborhoods to join them in raising America's consciousness about the atrocities still occurring in that corner of the globe. And when, after three years in America, two of them are already making plans to go back to their homeland in the hope of bringing positive change to the region, we come to understand just how powerful a force commitment and caring can be in this world.
After immersing yourself in "God Grew Tired of Us," you may never look at your own life - or the place you occupy in the world - in quite the same way again.
By all means, don't miss this one.
In this case we get the perspective of those that have never been here and come from such a tragic history. It really brings perspective to yourself.
One thing that stuck in my mind was a lady's question to one of the men at a community pool. She asked him if he noticed that he had more "freedom" here than there. I think in America we are somewhat ignorant of what goes on "out there". Not everything is about "freedom" like freedom of speech or fear of being wrongly prosecuted, or freedom of religion. That is true with respect to communism or dictatorships. These boys may have had greater "freedom" of opportunity, but they were not persecuted while living in Kenya. Yet most Americans must think that everything out there is about freedom and it is not. Most freedom people seek is freedom from poverty yet I bet you that is not what she meant.
That is not a criticism on the movie however. The movie is fantastic and I highly recommend it.
I watched it and showed it to my whole family (ages 10 and up). I sent it for gifts. I am now buying a copy to share with friends.
This film touches my heart, saddens me, teaches me and gives me hope. It's really a wonder! And all of it so real and so true. Absolutely golden.