Can a feel-good film be made about the now-famous Lost Boys of Sudan? Christopher Quinn
thinks so, and he really wants you to believe in him. Filmed during the tail-end of the second Sudanese Civil War between the north and south, God Grew Tired of Us considers its title to be an afterthought rather than a premise. Displacing a handful of Sudanese "Lost Boys" in American cities as diverse as Syracuse, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Quinn follows three of them (John
, and Panther
) through their assimilation and their ponderance on how their personal culture should be held in such conditions.
Things get started with what seems like an unedited sequence from the adopt-an-African infomercials, minus the bearded Christian but resplendent with the hopeless boys and girls of the Sudan. These forgotten children trek unimaginable journeys from their homes to relief camps that exist in Ethiopia and Kenya. It is at one of these camps that John, Panther and Daniel are picked to go to the United States to live and experience a much more opportunistic culture. Article continues below
The dominant lost boy is John, a tall, humbly philosophical man who lives in Syracuse when he is brought over. He talks about a wanting to support and see his family, to become educated and to eventually make a living for his parents and siblings that he lost during the war and who now reside in Uganda. On the other hand there is Panther, who believes that he can better the Sudanese people with the education and money he receives in America.
Though Quinn's trajectory is sincere and isn't without its graces and an honest political and social debate, God Grew Tired of Us seems to opt out of any real criticism of what goes on when a person gets thrown into our hodgepodge of hyper-culture. There are moments of simple charm, like when John and a fellow lost boy watch ice-skating and think it might be too dangerous. In moments like that, Quinn does show a brief glimpse at how easy we have it and how easy it is to be so kind and humble when you have nothing and are given so much, even if we consider it the bare minimum.
The real questions, however, come up only in a peripheral sense. When John addresses a church filled with students, he brings up why Sudan isn't particular popular on our government's to-help list. There are also several gentle queries into our way of life; John asks how a Christmas tree and Santa Claus fit into the birth of Jesus, but doesn't say it with any condescension, only genuine interest. Its arguments and questions like these that could find a more fascination core to Quinn's film. Where there could easily be a four-hour documentary on the Sudanese Civil Wars and a six-hour miniseries on the lost boy assimilation process, Quinn's film is relegated to an 83-minute wrap up that only briefly grazes the problems and negative effects of cultural displacement. When John does finally get to meet his mother for the first time in over two and a half decades, she screams in utter joy and begins to do an African chant of happiness and thanks right in the airport, with Burger King and Macys-suited news anchors in the background. Itís the rare moment in God Grew Tired of Us where we see two cultures being slammed together without full preparation.