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God Grew Tired of Us
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this moving documentary -- while focused on the strength and resilience of its Sudanese subjects -- details their difficult lives as orphans in Sudan and refugees in Kenya and the United States (where they face significant economic difficulties). Their stories are complicated and sad and include losing family members to state-sanctioned violence. One of the young men seeks and eventually finds his mother and siblings, leading to a very emotional reunion.
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What's the story?
A documentary about the young men known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, GOD GREW TIRED OF US tells the story of three who make their way from Africa to the United States. The movie offers some brief background on the two-decade-long civil war that produced the Lost Boys. In 2000, the U.S. State Department selected 3,800 of them for resettlement in America, bringing them over without their parents. The film shows the boys' early "orientation" process -- they notice the terrible food on the airplane ("Is that cheese? I can't tell"); in their first U.S. apartments, they learn how to use hot and cold water, electric lights, and toilets. Soon after their arrival in the United States, the film's three main subjects are split up, and the movie follows Daniel Abul Pach and Panther Blor's experiences in Pittsburgh and John Bul Dau's in Syracuse.
Is it any good?
This is an inspirational film, even if it does feel simplistic at times; if nothing else, it will likely move viewers to learn more about the subject. God Grew Tired of Us received some mainstream press attention, owing in part to its success at the 2006 Sundance film festival (it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award) and the high profiles of executive producer Brad Pitt and narrator Nicole Kidman. But the story is compelling and worthy of attention even without these trappings. Each young man tells his story with compassion, insight, and seemingly infinite patience, able to see past immediate obstacles and frustrations in order to keep faith in the future. Occasionally, one will recall a particular trauma. John, for instance, as one of the oldest survivors in Kenya, was put in charge of a group of some 1200 boys when he was only 13 -- and so found himself organizing the burials of children who didn't make it. He recalls that time with sadness and wonder that he emerged intact. "When I think of it back," he says, "it was so bad anyway. You can never regret that you were born."
Some details seem worthy of more attention than the film grants: For example, the boys in Pittsburgh are instructed by the local police not to go shopping together, as their "large groups" are alarming merchants. While this suggests ignorance on the merchants' part, no one steps up for the Sudanese refugees. And so they speak for themselves, not only in the documentary, but also in large groups, organizing annual conventions of "Lost Boys" in order to keep track of one another and become active in policy and legal debates concerning their treatment in the United States and efforts to stop genocide in Africa.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the hardships faced by these young men. How do they form new "families" after losing their parents and/or siblings? What opportunities -- and adversities -- do they find in the United States? What kind of support systems do they have? By comparison, what do you think might happen to Sudan's "lost girls"? What do you think this movie is trying to accomplish? Does it succeed?
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