PUBLISHED07 Mar 2019

Lost Boys of Sudan

HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE

Two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America, but find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.

Film synopsis

Lost Boys of Sudan is an Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, but a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.

Why does the film exist?

The Darfur crisis was one of the most violent conflicts of the early 21st century, but it was not receiving the kind of widespread, worldwide media attention that would prompt significant overseas intervention, support and/ or aid. Public attitudes towards refugees stemming from the crisis, and refugees in general, were also questionable. It was in this environment that the idea for Lost Boys of Sudan grew: the filmmakers wanted to mobilise widespread action and support for Darfuri refugees and for the Darfur crisis itself.

What are the film’s key messages?

• The humanitarian crisis in Darfur is one of epic proportions and the people of Darfur need urgent aid.

• Refugees have the same hopes, dreams, fears and worries as us; they are simply seeking peace and safety for themselves and their families.

How was the film intended to contribute to positive social change?

• Deepen the public’s understanding about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

• Open people’s hearts and encourage a sense of solidarity with Darfuri refugees and refugees in general.

• Generate community and government support for the people of Darfur.

Who is the film for?

• Students.

• Humanitarian organisations.

• The general public.

What were the major campaign assets?

• Website: In the lead up to the film’s premiere screening on PBS in the USA, the Lost Boys of Sudan team launched a website containing additional information on the Darfur crisis and, a Take Action page full of ideas on meaningful ways for interested parties to support Darfuri refugees.

• Information pamphlets: Pamphlets containing information about the Darfur crisis, and listing ways for viewers to take action, were distributed at theatrical screenings of Lost Boys of Sudan.

Who were the major partners?

• UNHCR.

• Amnesty International.

• STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur).

• Teacher’s associations.

• National refugee resettlement agencies.

How did the campaign roll out?

Lost Boys of Sudan premiered nationally in the USA on the PBS series, POV, in the fall of 2004. It earned two national Emmy nominations and won an Independent Spirit Award. Millions of viewers tuned into the film’s broadcast on PBS, and refugee and human rights organisations across the country organised house parties, teach-ins and fundraising events on the night of the screening.

The filmmakers also launched a companion website, which contained additional information on the Darfur crisis and had a Take Action page full of ideas on meaningful ways for interested parties to support Darfuri refugees.

In the next phase of the campaign, the film was screened theatrically in 70 cities across the USA to strong audience and critical praise. Literature about the film and the Darfur refugee crisis was distributed in theatres during the film’s run.

The Lost Boys of Sudan team then focused specifically on 20 cities, and in each city organised a series of free public screenings to raise awareness and financial support for Darfuri refugees in collaboration with a wide variety of partners including rotary clubs, immigrant rights groups, racial justice organisations, faith-based groups, arts associations, and after-school programs.

The 20 chosen cities were Ann Arbor, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Fargo, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Princeton, Richmond, San Jose, San Diego, and Tampa.

Lost Boys of Sudan also screened on Capitol Hill to the Congressional Refugee and Human Rights Caucuses, as well as to the State Department’s Refugee and Migration Bureau.

The Lost Boys of Sudan team then donated 2000 copies of the Educators’ Edition DVD with discussion guides, lesson plans and community action kits to public libraries, teachers of English as a Second Language, high school and university student chapters of STAND and Amnesty International, for use in free public screenings and for continued educational use throughout America.

In addition to the donated DVDs, public libraries and student groups with especially powerful ideas for community events, received mini-grants and the assistance of the film’s Community Outreach Director to support their events around the film and crisis.

What was measured and how?

• Amount of money raised for Darfuri refugee scholarship funds.

• Number of volunteers recruited for refugee and humanitarian organisations.

• Number of letters written to elected officials and the media about the Darfur crisis.

• Amount of political action taken and government funding allocated to Darfur crisis.

What have been the major achievements so far?

• $1 000 000+ raised for Dafuri refugee scholarship funds.

• Thousands of volunteers for refugee and humanitarian organisations recruited.

• The development of various letter-writing campaigns to elected officials and the media around the Darfur crisis.

• Funding and political action generated for the Darfur crisis.