By Melanie Townsend
When people hear the term ‘Lost Boys’ they may think of the adventurous children’s tale of Peter Pan and his band of misfits that live happily in a land where they never grow up. If only this were true for the real Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan: children that are displaced from their homes and villages, have their families murdered or taken away, and grow up entirely too fast when they are forced to become child soldiers.
It’s no fairytale in Northeastern Africa today. Civil war continues to wage on throughout Sudan, leaving many people homeless or orphaned and resort to living in refugee camps where food is scarce. However, some are given the opportunity of beginning a new life in America where they’re able to find jobs, get an education, and sleep in an actual bed. These are the real Lost Boys.
Warner Bros. Studios, Ron Howard’s Imagine Studios, and Black Label Media have created a new movie representing a looking glass into the untold lives and journeys of the Lost Boys. The movie was made under an independent label budget and minimal crew, but they were determined to tackle this challenging story and share it with the public.
When explaining how The Good Lie got off the ground Producer Molly Smith, executive producer of The Blind Side said, “About two-and-a-half years ago it made its way onto my desk and my partners and I were starting a new indie production company called Black Label Media. So we were really excited because this is the first film that we’ve made under the new company.”
Molly had her own special connection to the film based on her family history. “My family adopted a Lost Boy in 2001 when he arrived in Memphis, Tenn. He’s still part of our family and he’s gone on to be a PhD engineer, but that’s how I learned the story, and so when I got the script telling the story of my brother, I had a personal, a deeply personal connection.”
The Good Lie sets the stage by telling the story of four orphans who grow up in a refugee camp in Kenya. The beginning of the film is a tough pill to swallow as director, Philippe Falardeau shows images of soldiers shooting at the children and the long, treacherous walk from Sudan to Kenya that these children ventured to find salvation.
A tough pill yes, but a necessary and realistic one that Americans must take to get the full picture. The four orphans: Paul, Jeremiah, Mamere, and Abital grow up in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and discover they will board a plane and join the other 3,600 Lost Boys in the flight to America. This was an actual humanitarian movement in the 1990s before the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks shut down the program. Once in America, the Boys are separated from their sister Abital and fly over to Kansas where they meet a spunky employment agency counselor played by Reese Witherspoon. As they begin a new chapter, their lives along with hers are forever changed through hardship, triumph, and unity.
The casting for this movie was extremely important in the promotion for this film; Emmanuel Jal (Paul) and Ger Duany (Jeremiah) had mass recognition in the Africa community along with their own unique personal connections to the film and the roles they played. Emmanuel was a former south Sudanese child soldier who was rescued and brought to America at a young age. Ger was also a former refugee and child of war. They knew if they had someone well recognized and beloved by the public to play in the movie alongside them, the more potential success their story would have. Reese fit the bill perfectly.
“Reese, she’s an incredible actor,” Ger said, “All of us know that. She’s a mother, she’s a mentor, and she became a sister in the process of making this movie.”
Smith said, “No one came to this project for money, everyone came to this for passion and to be a part of telling this story, including Reese Witherspoon who joined us really as a supporting character is this movie…she was the only person we came to with this screenplay because I knew she would bring a larger audience to their story.”
Expressed his own thoughts about Witherspoon, Emmanuel said, “Hollywood had come up with a way to bring our stories to a wider audience. It’s going to go to individual Americans who doesn’t care about anything, but the fans of Reese are becoming involved.”
This new film opens the eyes of people unaware of the terrible struggle and amazing stories that the Lost Boys and Girls of Africa have.
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