>> Friday, September 25, 2009
As I wrote yesterday, I was in a documentary watching mood last weekend, so on Saturday night I watched The Disappearing Male (about the effects of chemical use on the male reproductive system) and on Sunday night, I watched God Grew Tired of Us.
My husband has this annoying habit of adding documentaries to our Netflix queue, but when they arrive, he doesn't watch them. So they sit on top of our TV for weeks, sometimes months (completely negating the value of renting from Netflix rather than a video store), until finally I beg him to watch them so I can get some cheesy chick flicks.
When God Grew Tired of Us arrived in our mailbox, I showed it to my husband, and he said, "I don't remember adding that to the queue." It's from 2006, and it has probably been in our queue for about that long. Knowing that meant he was going to hold up my video enjoyment again, I almost popped it right back in the mailbox. But then I read the description and thought it sounded pretty interesting and green-related in a round about way, so I decided to watch it.
In the 1980s during a bloody civil war, over 25,000 boys in southern Sudan were orphaned or fled their homes during attacks on their villages by government troops from the north. The boys, dubbed the "Lost Boys of Sudan," wandered for five years across Sudan into Ethiopia and then down to Kenya where they found refuge in a UN camp. In 2001, the United States invited 3800 of the boys to relocate to America.
God Grew Tired of Us introduces us to three of the Lost Boys (by this time, grown men in their twenties) who have been chosen to journey to the U.S. to make a new home for themselves in a completely foreign environment. The film follows them for four years as they transition into their new lives, get jobs, attend college, and finally work to improve the lives of the boys they left behind in Sudan.
I had a number of thoughts as I was watching this film. First, as the young men were shown around their new apartments and cities, with all their technological modern conveniences, I was struck by how lucky we are to have such bounteous wealth. For instance, these young men, who had struggled to survive for five years in the wilderness and who had watched many of their fellow travelers starve to death (children watching children die and then having to bury them) - these young men marveled at all of the foods in a supermarket. How do you eat this? they kept asking. What do you do with this?
Watching the young men discover supermarkets and refrigerators and TVs, I felt so blessed for all we have available to us and that most of us here in the U.S. don't have to struggle to survive. And I thought that even as we work to make the world greener and cleaner, we can't discount the fact that technology has in many ways made our lives better.
But as the movie went on, I was surprised to see that although the three young men were grateful for the opportunity to be in the U.S., they weren't really happy. They deeply missed the other boys and families they had left behind. One young man found his lost family through the Red Cross, so he dropped out of school and worked three jobs so he could save enough to bring them to America. The other two young men planned to return to Africa as soon as they could - one to establish a school and the other to marry his girlfriend.
That brings up the question - what makes us happy? Supermarkets and refrigerators and TVs? Even after living through the terrible trauma of their childhoods, all the Lost Boys wanted was to be reunited with their friends and families.
My final thought was that although the subject of this movie seems more like a social justice issue than an environmental issue, the two subjects are actually entwined throughout this movie, as they are in so many aspects of life. According to the film, two of the main causes of the war were oil and gold. Our dependence on cheap fossil fuel and our insatiable appetites for stuff has a much farther reaching effect than just polluting the air or filling up landfills. There is also a human factor, and I hope we environmentalists never forget that.
This film was a deeply moving account of three amazing survivors, and I definitely recommend adding it to your own Netflix queues.