Lost Boys of Sudan

Directors: Megan Mylan, Jon Shenk

Financier: During the first months of shooting, the filmmakers’ personal credit cards. As filming progressed, Mylan and Shenk pieced together grants from the Pacific Pioneer Fund, the Sundance Documentary Fund, and the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, and sold broadcast rights to PBS’ POV documentary series.

Budget: $400,000. The filmmakers have raised $250,000 so far and are attempting to raise the last $150,000 “to essentially pay our salaries,” Mylan explains. “So far we haven’t been paid a dime for making this film.”

Shooting format: Sony Digital Betacam

Why it made the list: Enables the audience to see America through the eyes of refugees who come from a culture so vastly different they might as well be visitors from another planet. The strange new world the Sudanese encounter in the U.S. is, by turns, warm and embracing, perplexing, absurd and chilling.

Memorable scenes: At the end of his first year in America, despite working long hours at a plastics factory, Santino Majok Chuor admits, “I have nothing. Not even enough money for food.” Another refugee, Peter Nyarol Dut, moves to Kansas to attend high school in the WASP-y suburbs. He finds himself marooned among a sea of pale faces in a high school music class as the teacher leads the students in a saccharine rendition of “Edelweiss.” At an after-school evangelical gathering, upper middle-class Christian youths sing heartfelt hymns to a Caucasian Jesus while Peter sits apart from the crowd, listless and profoundly ill at ease.

Distribution/broadcast status: The filmmakers have been self-distributing “Lost Boys” by negotiating deals with individual arthouses in cities such as Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; Tucson, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C. It airs on PBS next summer.

Exposure to date: Won awards at San Francisco Intl. Film Festival and Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Nominated for Independent Spirit Award, and for awards by the Independent Documentary Assn. and the Intl. Documentary Festival in Amsterdam. Shown in Washington, D.C., for the Congressional Refugee Caucus and the State Department. At a special screening in San Diego, the movie raised approximately $20,000 for the San Diego Lost Boys’ Educational Fund.

On making the film: “Imagine yourself landing in America with no financial resources and no support network,” says Mylan. “Strip away parents, family, education, money, housing, friends, neighbors who know you, all worldly possessions, language. Take all that away and how do you go about surviving? At that moment you can really see what type of person somebody is. We set out to examine that. You see how these young Sudanese men respond to America in radically different ways.”

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