Ger Duany (right) as Sudanese refugee Jeremiah who adjusts to American life with the help of employment agency counsellor Carrie played by Reese Witherspoon Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The truth behind the lie

By 
  • October 8, 2014

The film is called The Good Lie but if offers a lot of truth. 

Based on real events during the 22-year civil war in Sudan, the film starring Reese Witherspoon tells the story of child refugees who fled the fighting and, once grown up, win a lottery to emigrate to the United States only to find it is hardly the nation of their dreams. They face culture shock and have difficulty finding jobs in a country they had longed to call home. 

The main characters, three boys and a girl, are part of a group of children from the 1980s known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” When their villages were overrun and their parents massacred by soldiers from North Sudan, the children walked hundred of kilometres to Kenya or Ethiopia for safety, only to be stuck at refugee camps for much of their lives. The film’s main characters lived at a Kenyan refugee camp for 13 years. 

Yet, the film balances their pain with life’s humourous moments and the love between the characters that becomes a foundation for their survival. 

“What I found accurate about the film is definitely the depiction of the plight of abandoned children who, due to the sudden outbreak of war, end up being scattered on their own and also have to fend for themselves,” said Luciano Moro, a community outreach worker with the Office for Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Moro, 36, is from Morobu,Yei in South Sudan and came to Canada four years ago after leaving his homeland in 1990. The main characters in the film, he says, are either from the Dinka community from the Bar el Ghazal region or the Jonglei state, regions affected most by the conflict. 

An aspect of the film Moro found accurate was the lack of knowledge about Sudan’s civil war among people in the West, including those who helped The Lost Boys resettle. More than two million people died and four million were displaced during the 22-year conflict, according to the United Nations. Moro said refugees often encounter little understanding of their homeland when they arrive at adoptive homes. 

“Many people who encounter their host families or communities found them to totally have no knowledge or idea about their own situation, even though they were willing to help to resettle them,” Moro said. 

“That indifference was very poignant in the movie.” 

He found the film “moving to see… the hardships that many of these young children faced at the time.” 

But The Good Lie does not tell the entire story, he said. 

“What I found very inaccurate, I believe there was an attempt to depict that many of The Lost Boys were religious,” said Moro, referring to the characters carrying a Bible throughout the film. 

“While it is true that most of southern Sudan is Christian, it’s not true that everyone belongs to the Christian faith. Others have their traditional faith or beliefs. And so I thought that was an embellishment from Hollywood.” 

Another inaccuracy, says Moro, lies with the character’s ability to speak English. By the time they grew up, they spoke English most of the time, if not all the time in the film. “It’s not true that everyone who went through that conflict… were as educated or could speak English. Because all these characters were fairly fluent in English,” he said. “That for me was kind of strange because the kids that were actually affected by this conflict, most of them spoke their local language. They never really spoke a word of English or anything.” 

He said that refugee camps may provide a basic education for children, but says the film’s characters “had a fairly sophisticated vocabulary.” 

Moro would also have liked the film to address the issue of the vast number of girls who were kidnapped in the conflict. 

“While we have focused mostly on the boys, really the element of the girls was left out of it,” he said. “A lot of girls also found themselves victims to this conflict. Many ended up being slaves or wives of their perpetrators, the soldiers or the armies that caused the conflict.” 

There are also Lost Boys in Canada. For more information on resettling refugees in Canada, visit www.archtoronto.org/refugee. 

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