Forethought: I watched, attempting to impersonate tears as a common symptom of summer-time allergies. I watched as I felt humbled, abashed to internally admit a general underappreciation of a life I took freely, with a thought that nothing else in the world would matter as long as I could sit here, clear my mind, put all other thoughts away, and watch this film. I watched as I realized what the world is, how the world is – how during these two hours I completed an identity– my identityÃ¢Â¦an identity I struggled to realize and accept for the past six years of my adult life. I watched, as I understood the image I fashioned for years was not who I was – that an afro and a socially conscious mind did not make this South American born African womanÃ¢s selfdom. I watched, eventually letting the tears fall, motionless. I watched as I realized that I would not be able to write this review with the code of a professional editor -to be unbiased, objective, and dispassionate to the subject of my article; I apologize. I watched as I felt my heart drop – and knew I had to share these feelings with you before I commenced this article. I watched, as I reminisced myself a teenager who so desperately wanted to be African-born; a teenager who, unlike many others in my circle, was proud to proclaim herself African; a teenager who was beyond herself with exhilaration when one day, a Senegalese woman asked what part of Africa I was from. I watched, as I saw a mirror of myself in these men, and for the first time, I was AFRICAN. And I watched.
“ With all that is going on in the world, with our suffering, I thought that God got tired. I thought that God grew tired of us. ”
It is with this poignant observation that Jon Bul Dan, one of the characters in God Grew Tired of Us , to the world demonstrates his feeling towards his long term suffering. The film was inspired after the mass genocide in the Sudan beginning in 1983; thousands of Dinka Sudanese Africans were systematically killed by marauding Muslim troops.
The Lost Boys of Sudan began as a set of 27, 000 who fled their villages to escape the genocide. They trekked hundreds of miles across the wilderness, to Ethiopia where they were chased out by the government, and finally to Kenya, where they settled. What the boys thought would be a short-term settlement until the genocide was over in the Sudan, approximating this time period to be about three to six months, became a settlement at a refugee camp for ten years. There they worked, performing duties such as burying boys who would die of hunger and malnutrition, and received little education in propped tents. They received ID cards for food, and a registration process went underway to account for each and every boy present in the camp. One boy would be regarded as the elder, usually about eleven to thirteen years old; his duties would be to lead his group, and teach them as they grew into young adulthood. A brotherhood was formed, as the boys were all each other had. They had been through similar atrocities, were bone thin, and had developed a deep understanding of the most extreme morbid realities of life.
“ A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic. ” This quote was by Joseph Stalin, leader of the former Soviet Union and an increasingly controversial political figure even after his death in March of 1953. Conceivably this is why the filmÃ¢s writer/director Christopher Quinn chose to chronicle the lives of just three Lost Boys in his award winning documentary.
The film opens as we meet John Bul Dau, Panther Bior and Daniel Abul Pach in 2001, as they learn that they will soon be leaving for America. Courtesy of the United States government, the men were able to obtain a Visa and obtain a travel ticket to their respective destinations in America. We watch as they board the plane, paying their last respects and shared goodbyes with the men they have grown with for over a decade.
They begin their new lives in Syracuse, New York. Surely a culture shock, the men are unaccustomed to the luxuries, and stress, of life in the US. &ldquo ;Electricity”, says one of the boys, “ I have heard that they have this in America. I have never used electricity, so I donÃ¢t imagine how it is possible that I would need it. ” The film is surely, against many reviews, full of laughs. It lacks to demean the modern-ignorance of these men, and instead highlights their intellect and strong molded ambition for better lives. The story is told with immediate seriousness towards an alarming genocide, while still keeping its audience from weeping in sadness for hours on end by providing lighthearted comedy. Another boy responds to a question by a camera-man, “ There are things in America that we are not used too, like a man can only have one wife. These things, I can imagine, would be very difficult. ” When asked what he thought of his first plane ride Daniel responds “ The food we got on the plane” he pauses, then resumes “ was not making as good as the food we used to be eating. ”
The concept of already-cooked potatoes is a new phenomenon; surely this cannot be the case. “ In America, these are already cooked”, explains a mentor, and landlord, to four boys as they are introduced to their first two bedroom apartment. They are amazed, but learn quickly how to flush the toilet, adjust the temperature of water, and work with a light switch. Surely they learn at the expense of a few laughs.
They learn quickly that life in America is not at all what they had imagined. The “ very small country”, of New York proves challenging, as the men struggle to pay back their airfare, with taxes added, to the sympathetic US government. All, within their three month grace period, begin jobs Ã¢"sometimes three, to make ends meet. Jon registers at a local community college, only to drop out due to an enforced obligation to provide for his family – once he learns that all the members of his immediate family are alive. This is a jovial moment for him. After saving up for airfare, Jon is reunited with his family. The moment Jon and his mother meet eyes is an especially poignant moment in the film. They run to each other, as his mother collapses onto the floor, screaming with joy for minutes to come.
There are many more moments of the film that can only be seen to understand their signification. Another Lost Boy, Valentino Achak Deng, subject of his own authorized biography by author Dave Eggers called What is the What , accustoms himself to life in the US as his sponsor take him grocery shopping. Valentino, astounded by a box of tampons, immediately picks it up and throws it in his grocery cart. Valentino goes on to display this box as the centerpiece for the coffee table in his living room. When Valentino is given an explanation for the use of a tampon, he simply states as a counter-argument “ but it is beautiful. ”
The taste for simplicity does not last for long, but to end in the words of John V. Cheney “ The happiest heart that ever beat was in some quiet breast, that found the common daylight sweet, and left to Heaven the rest. ”