God Grew Tired of Us

God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary about the incredible journey of three Sudanese youngsters, is not a great work, but it avoids so many pitfalls that you have to admire the courage of the subjectsand the filmmakers, Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker, who function as producers and directors. Emotionally touching without being sentimental, factual rather than manipulative, the aptly titled documentary is produced by National Geographic and is narrated in a straight, functional manner by Nicole Kidman. At the end of the film, you feel you have learned something about human courage and survival.

At one point, Daniel, Panther and John sit motionless on the Trans-Atlantic flight waiting for the next thing to happen. The temperature in the plane is unbearably cold. John stares out the window at a strange group of stars that seems to be drawing ever closer in the night. A passing flight attendant smiles and grabs the belt around his waist, giving it a good tug.

The combination of blinking lights, turbulence, and unfamiliar food have begun to nauseate John and Panther, who stare at each other in discomfort. Daniel sits on the aisle, engrossed in his Herald Tribune newspaper. Without warning, the plane begins its downward descent. The four young men shoot looks of concern at each other, then break out into laughter. John points at the small, strange cluster of stars that is suddenly directly ahead. The attendant whispers excitedly into his ear, “See those lights Thats America. Thats your new home.”

As boys, their villages were ravaged and many family members were killed during bloody civil war between the ruling Arabic Muslim majority in the north and the Christian and animist rebels in the south. Because the village boys traditionally tended cattle on the outskirts of the villages, they had avoided death. They soon found others like themselves; orphaned boys aged 3 to 13 banded together until they numbered nearly 25,000.

They set out across Sudan on foot in search of safety. The boys came to be known in Africa as the Lost Boys, after “Peter Pan” posse of orphans, and they protected and provided for each other as they wandered the equatorial wilderness between Sudan and Ethiopia for the better part of five years.

Many did not survive the horrific journey. Some died of thirst or starvation. Some drowned or died of exposure. Some were eaten by animals. Some were killed by soldiers or bandits. The older among them were forcibly recruited into the rebel army.

Yet they didn't fall into William Goldings pessimistic view of the world, as illustrated in his powerful book “Lord of the Flies,” made into a good movie by Peter Brook in 1963 (and remade in 1990), about a group of British school boys stranded on a remote island. No, they didnt digress into barbaric savagery or degenerated into nasty beasts. Rather, they took care of each other. A ten-year old boy looked after a three and five-year old boy. They formed makeshift families in order to survive, and set a course through Sub-Saharan Africa in search of safety.

In 1992, the Lost Boys finally reached a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. For the next nine years, they struggled to survive the harsh conditions of the Kenyan refugee camp. Hopes soared in 1999, when the United States government agreed to relocate 3,600 Lost Boys to America. Having never turned a light switch or seen a television, three Lost Boys; Daniel, Panther, and John began their new lives in America in August of 2001.

Culture shock describes their initial experiences, but eventually they begin to lead normal American lives. Yet they remain deeply committed, both spiritually and monetarily, to those lost boys left behind in Kakuma and to their struggling homeland.

The docu is a culmination of over four years of filming. Christopher Quinn and his crew started in Africa, on the border of Sudan and Kenya, at a UN refugee camp in Kakuma, where they met a group of orphaned youngsters known in the west as The Lost Boys of Sudan. The crew was amazed by how these boys held together, opting for civility during even the most horrific periods.

Quinn made this film to tell their stories so others can hear and learn–and stop the systematic eradication, the genocide, of the people of Sudan. Over the course of two weeks in 2001, the producers documented the harsh reality of camp life and gathered testimony of the boys past hardships. Of the many interviewed, some of these boys were selected to follow to America. The producers then accompanied the boys on the plane from Africa to their host cities, witnessed the boys first impressions of the new country, followed them to their new homes, and, for the next four years, documented these young men as they adapted to living “normal” American lives. Since the initial phase of shooting, the producers made weeklong visits to the boys every other month, rotating their visits between Syracuse, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the three subjects have been settled.

Christopher Quinn, born in Washington, D.C. began his career in broadcast news for CBS. He attended the Anthropology Film Center in Santa Fe for documentary and ethnographic filmmaking. Tommy Walker has worked in film and television for twenty years. He began his career in 1985 working in postproduction for National Geographic's Explorer series.