If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
~ African proverb ~
Fugitives from the violence that spawned them, we follow three boys and a girl who make an incredible 700-mile trek from the bloodshed in Sudan to the relative safety of a refugee camp. From there, they end up in the United States where cultural shock is inevitable. "Snow?" "Telephone?" "Unmarried women?" Known as "The Lost Boys," they were part of the 3,800 boys and girls brought to the US in the late '90s. (The program was suspended with 9/11.)
Directed by Philippe Falardeau ("Monsieur Lazhar") working with award-winning scriptwriter Margaret Nagle ("Warm Springs"), this PG-13 film is wrenching, entertaining, and hopeful.
- Arnold Oceng ("It's a Lot") is Mamere the most ambitiousone. He realizes during their seven-year sojourn in the refugee camp that he wants to be a doctor. This actor was born in Uganda and raised in Brixton (England). He's been acting there since 1993.
- Ger Duany ("Isn't it Delicious") plays Jeremiah, the most religious one: he never loses his Bible. Duany was born in South Sudan and was forced to be a child soldier in the civil war. On his second try, he escaped to Ethiopia when he was 14. He's been in Hollywood since 2004.
- Emmanuel Jal ("Africa United") is Paul, whorebels against Mamere remaining their chief in Kansas. This actor is another child soldier from southern Sudan who emerged as a hip hop star with an unusual message of reconciliation and peace. You can hear him on the soundtrack, too.
- Reese Witherspoon ("Wild") joins us about a third of the way into our story; Carrie is the ballsy caseworker who becomes an advocate for our trio. But she first must understand the magnitude of the cultural gap. This is NOT a glamor role for Witherspoon and she carries it off very well.
- Corey Stoll ("This is Where I Leave You") is Carrie's brother Jack. Together they run an employment agency but he still lives on the family farm. He thinks he might paint the porch but the Sudanese worry that there is no one guarding his cattle from lions.
I must applaud this PG-13 script. It's witty, wise, entertaining and exciting. The bloodshed in Sudan is off screen and hardships endured by the children during the trek are beautifully captured. We learn about a "Good Lie," and enjoy the old joke about why the chicken crossed the road. We come to appreciate the differing points of view between the immigrants and the kind folks in Kansas, and how love of family is universal.