Dir. Christopher Quinn. US. 2006. 86mins
An emotionally absorbing documentary from ChristopherQuinn, God Grew Tired Of Us is apiece that demands another telling of the genocidalSudanese civil war and the horrifying emotional and physical conditions itinflicted on its thousands of battered survivors.
It also stands as an ablecompanion piece to Megan Mylan and Jon Chenk's remarkable TheLost Boys Of Sudan (2003), without being quite asdeep or devastating. Comparisons are inevitable given they share strongparallels in structure, tone and voice: Quinn's documentary amplifies andcontinues a tremendously important story.
It is a piece of solid, ifnever quite revolutionary or unforgettable, reportage that does not shatterone's perceptions but instead chooses to deftly employ humour, observation andemotional release.
The movie's rare doublevictory at Sundance, claiming the jury and audience prize for best documentary,should ensure a high-profile US release which, given the maturing,sophisticated documentary market, should yield strong, healthy returns. Theparticipation of executive producer Brad Pitt and narrator Nicole Kidman canonly help its commercial potential.
Internationally, French salescompany TF1 should be able to flex their muscle and institutional clout tocreate strong awareness in leading overseas markets.
The documentary's title is asomething of a misnomer, suggesting defeat and death - the opposite of its actualtone of recovery and faith. Shot during four years, it is classicallystructured, outlining the cataclysmic events - the end of British rule,religious and tribal clashes, the partitioning of the country, governmentcorruption and oil greed - that befell Sudan and resulted in wanton death,destruction and hundreds of thousands of nationals fleeing their country onfoot.
The film relates theintertwined stories of three "lost boys" - refugees John BulDau, Panther Bior andDaniel Abul Pach - whotrekked thousands of miles from Sudan, surviving government bombing, disease andmalnutrition to find sanctuary in Ethiopia.
Caught up in the crossfireof the Ethiopia's own political nightmare of drought and war, the three men thenresettled in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
The film tracks their sharedpain, joy, frustration and alienation once they arrive in the US, as the storyshuttles between Syracuse, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Quinn's style is direct, andthe documentary is strongest at capturing the men's sharp emotional reaction totheir fortune, which encompasses their articulated guilt at such anextraordinary opportunity and a strong moral obligation to help those leftbehind or unaccounted for.
The humour is arresting anddisarming, most famously when one of the men holds up a bottle of Pepsi, andsays "In Africa, we call this Coca-Cola." Such moments compensate for Quinn'srepetitive examples of the men's emotional innocence.
The work is frustrating onother accounts, both in its leaps of time (the duration of their time in the USshifts at one point from one year to three), and denying some of the darkerthreads of the men's story.
The film-makers also acknowledge- but never quite return - to the story of one emigre who lapses into mentaldementia because of his loneliness and separation. And unlike Lost Boys, the film does not attempt touncover the subjects' attitudes towards American blacks.
But if some troublingquestions remain unanswered, Quinn rightfully ends on a powerful note of"deliverance," detailing the reunion of John Bul Dau and his mother following a 17-year separation that endswith her body splayed on the airport floor in an act of profound joy andrelief.
If these moments are toorare, God Grew Tired OfUs occasionally achieves a transcendent power and grace.
Lost Boys Of Sudan
Molly Bradford Pace
John Bul Dau
Daniel Abul Pach