Lost Boys Of Sudan

The American dream is put to the test in Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk's moving documentary about two Sudanese teenagers, refugees of the civil war that's been tearing their country apart for some two decades, who are relocated from Africa's plateaus to the plains of the American west. For over 20 years, Islamic fundamentalists have waged a vicious war on the...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The American dream is put to the test in Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk's moving documentary about two Sudanese teenagers, refugees of the civil war that's been tearing their country apart for some two decades, who are relocated from Africa's plateaus to the plains of the American west. For over 20 years, Islamic fundamentalists have waged a vicious war on the Christian and Animist separatists of south Sudan, destroying villages and driving thousands of young men, like Peter Nyarol Dut and Santino Majok Chuor, into refugee camps. Once members of the cattle-herding Dinka tribe, Peter and Santino become two of Sudan's so-called "Lost Boys," a group of some 20,000 young men who, orphaned or permanently separated from their families during the late 1980s, survived a perilous trek across the desert to find refuge in neighboring countries. Peter, who lost both parents when he was only 4, and 17-year-old Santino have lived most of their lives in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. But in 2001 the U.S. government agrees to resettle 4,000 Lost Boys in American cities, opening a new opportunity to the displaced youths. Peter, Santino and a group of others are relocated to suburban Houston, Texas, where YMCA representatives explain that after a four-month adjustment period — during which time their rent and spending money will be provided for — they'll be pretty much on their own. Though grateful to be living like rich men, in multistory houses with more food than they can possibly eat in a day, these young men soon realize that aside from rudimentary English classes, they won't receive what's most important to them: an education. They're now faced with a difficult choice: They can work themselves to death in dead-end jobs, hoping to make enough to pay expenses and send money back home as promised, or turn their backs on their family obligations and pursue their schooling. This tension between communal responsibility and good old American ambition moves to the fore as Peter and Santino take divergent paths. Five months after relocation, Peter quits his job and abruptly resettles himself in Kansas, where he enrolls in high school and prepares himself for an American future. Santino, who's always dreaded loneliness, stays put in Houston. But even for Peter, this is hardly a Horatio Alger story; anyone lacking his almost superhuman determination would have been discouraged by the formidable obstacles he overcomes. This excellent film, which is both uplifting and troubling, also makes crystal clear what Peter gradually gives up in order to fit in as best he can: His culture. (In English and Dinka, Arabic and Swahili with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The American dream is put to the test in Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk's moving documentary about two Sudanese teenagers, refugees of the civil war that's been tearing their country apart for some two decades, who are relocated from Africa's plateaus to the pl… (more)
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