Wednesday, April 20, 2011

God grew tired of us

My Rating: 9/10

Feeling depressed? Sorry for yourself? Like you spend too much time working and don't get to do the things you'd like to do, or your life hasn't turned out to be the dreamland that you wanted? Prepare to have your outlook on life totally yanked out, beaten with a reality stick, and shoved back in after a serious dry cleaning.

After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other "lost boys," Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time. Capturing their wonder at things Westerners take for granted, this documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.

As documentaries go, I give this 11/10. It was awesome - literally awesome, and not just in the casual slang expression sense. The boys are all orphans, having lost family during the Sudan civil war and been forced to march south over the desert to refugee camps. Their descriptions of watching people drop dead of hunger and exhaustion all around them are horrifying. Unnerving hearing one fellow talk about being taught at 12 how to drag bodies into a mass grave.

It shows their life in the refugee camps, where there is not enough food but plenty of community spirit, and then their selection to be relocated to the US. In interviews beforehand, they talk about what they think the US is like. They don't know what showers are. Never used electricity. Never been in a car. From this existence, they are flown by plane from Africa to Europe, and then to the US. It is mind boggling to even IMAGINE what it must have been like for a guy who's never had electricity to suddenly be on an 8 hour international flight.

In the states, they're taken to their waiting apartments - What we'd view as low rent housing, but which is a veritable wonderland for them. A six inch thick personal mattress for each? A fridge to keep meat cold in? It's amazing to watch. You can only imagine what their reactions to supermarkets are like.

It shows the dark side of culture shock, too - Prejudice from the locals, inability to assimilate, depression, constant alienation (All things I could relate to very well thanks to our time in France). But overall, it is a completely inspiring story about guys who come here with nothing, literally, but eager attitudes, and who work hard to send money back home, educate themselves, and build real lives for themselves here in the states where so many actual Americans have grown up feeling entitled and self-pitying about what they think they don't have. I should warn that watching this will:

A) Give you some seriously embarrassing sniffles.
B) Make you really, really unsympathetic towards Americans whinging about their "problems" for some time afterward.
C) Make you feel incredibly inspired and lucky and just happy to be alive and have the opportunities you have.

Everybody should see this. 

Suggested Accompaniment: Food.  And drink.  And marvel at the fact that all you have to do to get food is go to the kitchen.