DOASKDOTELL Movie Reviews of films about African Students and
atrocities in Africa
of Baraka (2005, ThinkFilm, dir, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 84 min,
sug PG) documents the year spent by a number of African American middle
school boys from inner city Baltimore at a private boarding school in Kenya.
They live without television, computers and even electricity (certainly no
movies!) and focus on practical skills and academics, and their skills
improve enormously. The film shows the emotional makeup of the boys and the
degree of teacher commitment to work with them through their problems. The
school is closed then because of international problems. The film is digital
video and only 4:3 aspect ratio. There is a partial climb of snow-capped
of Sudan (2003, Shadow/PBS POV/Actual, dir. Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk,
87 min, sug. PG, in Eng and Swahili subt) documents a two young men (Peter
Dut and Santino Chuor) who come to Houston, TX from civil-war-torn Sudan,
after escaping to a refugee camp in Kenya. They adjust to high school,
taking ESOL courses and then doing well in traditional math and science
courses, learn to drive, go to work in a manufacturing assembly line job,
pay the rent. At one point they wind up in traffic court and another time
they have to straighten out missed bills because of inexperience with a
financial system. But they turn out well, reading for college. This was an
important international documentary in its year.
Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan (2006, NewMarket/Silver
Nitrate/National Geographic, dir. Christopher Dillon Quinn, Tommy Walker,
narrator: Nicole Kidman, 83 min, PG, p-5/r-1/a-3) is a theatrical sequel to
the first POV film, made with a lot more resources. Four teenagers,
including John Bul Dau and Daniel Abul Pach, have hiked a thousand miles
across the Sudan to escape the Civil War in the late 80s and wind up in
Kenya. They are able to get new lives in Syracuse, NY and Pittsburgh, PA as
part of the Lost Boys program. The film documents their adaptation to more
individualistic and mechanized American culture, starting with simple
household things in their apartments and in the supermarket. The boys are
surprised to find that Americans spend much more time alone and are
suspicious of strangers, especially in large groups (which we associate with
gangs in America). They get minimum wage jobs and start working their way
up. John starts to grasp western Christianity, after asking if Santa is in
the Bible, when he says war happens when God gets tired of people sinning so
much, and then has to question his beliefs. John starts to look for his
family, and finally learns that his mother and younger siblings are alive.
He delays going to college and takes two other part-time jobs in order to
send them money. He eventually goes back to Africa and is reunited with
them, and then he marries and is able to bring some people back. But what is
interesting here is the biological family loyalty. He is not free just to
pursue his own ends in America without trying to take care of younger
siblings first, a reality in many poorer families that does not find its way
cleanly into today's debate on "family values" or morality. His story sounds
like a first-hand lesson in the idea that family responsibility does not
always depend on having your own kids first. John makes the comment then
that Sudan's leaders look after their own families but not their own people.
That sort of rips open the circle on moral debate.
film is stunning, with on location photography in the Sudan, on the Nile,
and in Kenya, as well in Syracuse and hilly Pittsburgh.
Came on Horseback ("Jangaweed", 2007, International Film Circuit / Break Thru, dir. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg) is a documentary made by photographer and
former Marine Brian Steible of the genocide of blacks in Darfur in western
Sudan, deliberately fostered by the power hungry Muslim Sudanese government.
(2007, Warner Independent Pictures / Participant, dir. Ted Braun, 99
min) is a slick documentary about the Darfur problem with appearances by
Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney and Don Cheadle. More details are at
the blogger entry given above.
Watch (2007, PBS/Frontline, dir. Neil Dochterig) discusses Darfur,
especially the activism of Eric Reeves and Mia Farrow, as well as attempts
to label the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as the "Genocide Olympics." See
blogger reference above.
(2007, ThinkFilm / Sundance Channel / Shine Global, dir. Sean Fine and
Andrea Nix, 105 min) documents refugee children in Uganda competing in a
music competition in Kampala. Detailed review on blogger
The Children of Agape Choir (“Thina Simunye”, Picturehouse / HBO /
BBC4, dir. Paul Taylor, 83 min, PG, UK) Orphans in South Africa (orphaned by
AIDS) sing and travel to Britain and US to rebuild their community.
Have the Parents Gone? (2007, CNN Special Investigations Unit).
Christiane Amanpour reports on children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya.