An Evening with The Lost Boys of Sudan

Film, Movies, Politics | | February 22, 2007 at 16:32

The screening last night of the The Lost Boys of Sudan was not as well attended as one would like, but that’s easy to understand. This ugly thing happening in Africa makes us all uncomfortable. We know it’s tragic and feel helpless about doing anything to change things. There are so many places in the world that are a mess, so much suffering, for reasons unclear and mysterious to us. We seem to have learned that sending in the Marines doesn’t work. The complicated factions and subplots produce unintended consequences no matter how noble our intentions.

The film introduces us to a group of southern Sudanese boys, who because they were tending cattle away from their villages when the attacks came from the northern militia, managed to escape the massacre to the safety of Kenyan refugee camps. This is the story of their journey to and in America as part of a U.S. government refugee program and their struggle to adapt to a culture that makes demands for which most are wholly unprepared to meet. It’s not anyone’s fault really. Imagine the difficulty any of us would have if transported to the refugee camp and expected to make our way. How difficult would it be for us to learn Swahili or Arabic? How useful would our skills be in an environment where the highest value is placed on interpersonal relationships? The American ideal of the individual making his own way in life can be as hard on many native-born as it is on immigrants.

This was an evening that prodded sore spots; the plight of the displaced refugee who leaves everything familiar, comfortable and cherished behind, the sad history of the Sudan and the civil war that has raged between Islamic north and Christian south for 40 years, the new conflict in Darfur, all rooted in the perpetuation of genocide as a political and military policy.

After the screening, which took place at the Horn Theatre, CCSN Cheyenne Campus, a panel consisting of Prof. Ted Gurr, Prof. Barbara Harff, Jon Shenk, director of Lost Boys of Sudan and Gabriel, a "Lost Boy?" now making a life in Las Vegas, gave their thoughts on genocide worldwide, its causes and triggers, and specifically the tragedy in Sudan. The audience posed questions, the most poignant from Sudanese who seemed unable to understand the world’s apparent indifference to the unholy events transpiring in Darfur on a daily basis.

How is it that the world believes that we, the United States, can solve everything? After I had asked Gabriel about his personal story, of family in Sudan and of his new American life, a tall, thin young man approached and took my hand. "My name is Agoot Akau. I too am a Lost Boy," he said, the innocence and fragility of a child still in his eyes and smile. After so many years in the States and yet still so pure and ingenuous, I wonder if those boys will forever be lost.

Related blog entries: Las Vegas Foreign Affairs Council, Forrest Whitaker as the Last King of Scotland