Last night I was blessed to be able to watch "The Good Lie" on BlueRay DVD. The movie released a few months ago, and the DVD is available on Dec 23rd. The movie stars Reese Witherspoon and some unknowns, unknowns because instead of looking for professional actors, the decision was wisely made to find Sudanese refugees or their family members to bring authenticity to the film. And it worked!
This is the story of Theo and his siblings and friends who are orphaned during the civil war in Sudan. They have been told to make their way to Ethiopia for safety, but after walking several hundred miles they find that things are no better there, so they change course and head to a camp in Kenya. Along the way, Theo is captured, but the rest of the group continue on the route to Kenya. The reach the camp and settle into life in a refugee camp. Thirteen years later, right before 9/11, they are approved for resettlement to Kansas City. They were, but 100,000 others are still waiting for their names to appear on the list of lucky ones.
The first part of the movie covers life in Sudan during the civil war. The scenery is stunning, the acting brilliant, and your heart will break over the brutality of war. Senseless killings, children captured and forced to serve as soldiers for the opposing forces. But throughout these scenes there is a sense of hope, even as children are dying from exposure, dehydration, malnutrition, wild animals and yes, enemy gunfire. In some of the more tender moments the brothers remember their fathers admonition to remember who they are, who they came from, and their lineage. They have a ritual which helps them remember. Oral history is important. Yes, there is despair, but even in the midst of misery and pain, there is faith. A Bible is seen in several scenes, and the children pray.
Hundreds of miles later, they arrive at the refugee camp. Several years ago, I visited a camp similar to this in Palestine. Some things are universal. Thirteen years in the camp, learning to co-exist, sharing the basics, crowded conditions (at one point there were more than 110,000 refugees there). And everyday hoping to be able to return home, or if that were not possible, to be resettled to another country where they could make a new start.
And one day a new list is posted of those who have been selected to resettle. Our band of "Lost Boys" - actually 3 young men and 1 young lady, have all been approved to leave the camp and relocate in Kansas City, MO.
There are lots of "laughs" as this part of their journey unfolds, but they're bittersweet because they're at the expense of someone else. So much of what we take for granted is completely foreign to people in some parts of the world. The airline food on their flight to the US was totally unrecognizable, what's that machine making the ringing noise, how can you throw away perfectly good food when so many people are starving? If you have traveled to other countries, you know the feeling of seeing something new, and worse, not seeing what's familiar.
Their journey involves finding jobs, learning to adapt to the different customs in a new culture, missing family and friends, falling into the wrong crowd. But just as importantly the journey involves us, as we have to learn to deal with 'different'. A part of this incredible journey is seeing how the people who met the refugees changed with time. Their attitudes changed as they went from seeing the refugees as interruptions to their lives, as ignorant 'hicks' as problems waiting to happen, to seeing them as the created in God's image people that they truly are.
The ending, (and I won't tell you what happens) was a little bit too "Hollywood predictable" for me, but I highly recommend the movie despite that. I don't watch a lot of movies, but I really liked this one on a lot of different levels: acting, local color, scenery, life lessons, and how important it is to believe in something. Also the lesson of an African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
This movie impacted me in several different ways. Karl the traveler loved the scenery and views of life in a different country and a different culture, Karl the visitor to Palestine identified with the situation in the refugee camp, and the living conditions of a people forced off their land and into a strange place where everything is different, and people live for the dream of returning home. Karl the pastor appreciated how so many people were able to survive unthinkable situations because of their faith in Jesus. And Karl the transplant to Utah is starting to understand what resettled refugees go through and how individuals and churches can and need to get involved in giving people a second chance.
On average, about 1100 refugees are resettled in Utah each year. If Utah were a country, we would rank 5th , between Sweden with 2000, and Norway with 900+. My understanding is that since 1975 about 60,000 refugees have been resettled in Utah. Much of the resettlement is in the Salt Lake City area, but the area where I live and work is poised to become a new center for resettlement in the coming years. It's my prayer that people will see this movie and learn from it, not just the plight of people in war-torn far off lands, but the people who resettle in this country and what we can do to help them make a successful transition.
To make this more fun, Sunday evening before I go to bed, I'll draw the name of one person who has commented on the blog to receive a copy of the Blue Ray DVD (they sent me two - one for me, and one for one of my readers.
WARNING: you might need Kleenex. There are a couple of incidences of profanity, and the beginning has quite a bit of violence.
I give the movie an A.