Director Christopher Quinn
U.S.A., Kenya 2007
Tens of thousands fled their homes in Sudan during the civil war, among them 25,000 “Lost Boys” aged three to 13 who trekked barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert to find refuge. The Lost Boys banded together, bound by being orphaned and out of necessity, to fight wild animals, famine and disease for the five years it took to walk to the UN refuge camp in Kakuma, Kenya. This documentary follows three incredibly brave boys who survived and were later selected to re-settle in the United States: John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Bior. With regular visits over the next five years, Quinn follows the refugees: on their first airplane, through their first experiences with unlimited food in American grocery stores, new jobs, education, friendships and searching for lost family. As they learn to survive in their new world, they send money back to the old.
John Bul Dau, born in Southern Sudan, was virtually homeless for sixteen years while he was either running from the Arab militia, Sudanese army, wild animals, starvation and thirst or surviving in refugee camps. During this time he still helped others. At the Kakuma refugee camp he emerged as a group leader of more than 1000 other Lost Boys. In 2001 he was chosen to immigrate to the U.S., a country he had not heard of until he learned to read at the age of 17. He was sent to Syracuse, New York, where he often worked double shifts at places like MacDonald’s, UPS and General Super Plating. The film follows his transition from refugee to independent community service leader.
Daniel Pach was also born in Southern Sudan where he was separated from his siblings in 1987. He traveled hundreds of miles with the Lost Boys, arriving at the Kakuma refugee camp in 1992. During his ten years in that camp, he became an inspirational leader who formed a large social community called Parliament. He was selected to immigrate to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he first stayed with his friend Panther Bior. Pach worked as a check services clerk for Mellon Bank before getting a job in the produce department at Whole Foods Market while continuing his formal education.
Panther Bior from Bor, Sudan, was separated from his family in 1987. He walked with other Lost Boys and survived in Ethiopia for several years before arriving at the Kakuma refugee camp in 1992. Also selected for immigration to Pittsburgh, Bior worked as a busboy at the Omni William Penn Hotel and as a bank clerk and waiter before becoming a security guard. In the summer of 2005 he traveled back to Africa to get married but his wife remains there until he can afford to bring her to the U.S.
These true stories of boys who felt that perhaps “God grew tired of us,” reveal how each had his own drive and inner strengths that not only helped him survive while going without very basic necessities, but also to build new, successful lives in a very different land.