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For one of Sudan’s Lost Boys, telling story on film offers healing

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Finally tonight: A new film looks at a brutal civil war through the eyes of those who walked the walk.

    Jeffrey Brown explains.

  • ACTOR:

    You must be Pamela Lowey from Faith Based Charities?

  • REESE WITHERSPOON, Actress:

    Oh, no, I'm from the Forester employment agency. I'm going to help you find jobs.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    "The Good Lie" tells the story of the lost boys of Sudan, children forced to wander hundreds or even thousands of miles to escape violence, orphaned by the 22-year civil war that began in 1983 and left an estimated two million dead and double that number displaced.

  • REESE WITHERSPOON:

    Did your luggage come down the chute? Great.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's a fictional account starring Reese Witherspoon, but also several of the young men themselves, and follows them to this country, where beginning in the mid-1990s several thousand were brought into a strange new life.

  • ACTOR:

    Your father was a chief?

  • ACTOR:

    Yes, I guess some people would have called him that.

  • ACTOR:

    My father was a chief, too.

  • ACTOR:

    May we visit with your cow?

  • ACTOR:

    Be my guest.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Actor Ger Duany made this incredible trip himself, from a lost boy forced to serve as a soldier, to a refugee camp, and then to the U.S.

    I talked with him and screenwriter Margaret Nagle, who originated the project and worked for years to get it made.

  • MARGARET NAGLE, Screenwriter:

    I really wanted to tell this story because it was about brothers and sisters surviving. And it was about the very worst and the very best of humanity to me, and that's — as a writer, you're always searching for a way to get that story out.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What was that like, those years of not having a home, of just trying to stay one step ahead of war?

  • GER DUANY, Actor:

    It wasn't a pleasant feeling, but I was learning a lot, and I was learning about who I am, and even who I have become now, so…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In what way?

  • GER DUANY:

    I think, well, it brought a lot of transformation, because I learned how to live with no mother and father.

    And I lived — I learned how to live without my own actual brothers, and I lived for other people, that I just make my life better.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    I read that you felt before you could go ahead with this that you needed the kind of OK from the — well, the actors, but the young men who had actually lived through this.

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    I went around the country to the various lost boys community, and told them the story I was going to tell, everything that I could, so that it felt real to them.

    And the idea was to create a fund, The Good Lie Fund, that we would put money into for the education and for humanitarian aid for the lost boys. So I went and pitched them the story. And…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    You pitched them the story? You mean you literally said…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    I literally — I went — yes, yes, yes. And I said, here's the story I'm going to tell, and they had — they signed on.

  • GER DUANY:

    I knew it was going to be challenging, and in many layers.

    And — then, but reading the script that she had written is — it was very — the tone, the language, you know, of the people of South Sudan was completely — it was massive. And that's what — like, it drew me into the whole things.

    I have never been able to talk about this. I tucked it in for a long, long, two decades of being here in America.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Yes.

  • GER DUANY:

    So something came up, and then when the script came across, I'm kind of prepared emotionally that I wanted to open my story to the world.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    I read about the saga of making this film. It took a long, long time. And you wonder why it takes so long to make a film like this. Of course, then you think, well, it's about war in Africa. It's kind of a hard story to watch.

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    Hollywood used to make movies like this, but, in this last decade, they have stopped making movies like this.

    And it was hard to get people to believe in the story, to engage with the story. And once people engage with the story, they are all lit up, they are excited, they are passionate. And it's the kind of — this is — it's an intimate epic.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Partly, this — I mean, behind the film is a story of how film gets made, right, and which films get made and which don't. That's been your life.

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    Yes.

  • GER DUANY:

    But you know what? This movie maybe had been waiting for me to heal and then revisit the past time that I was living.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In real life, Duany was brought to Des Moines. In the film, he and the others come to Kansas City. The movie captures some of the humor of cultural disconnects.

  • GER DUANY:

    I have great faith, Yaardit.

  • REESE WITHERSPOON:

    Yaardit?

  • GER DUANY:

    It is our special name for you.

  • REESE WITHERSPOON:

    For me?

  • GER DUANY:

    Yes. It has great cultural significance.

  • REESE WITHERSPOON:

    What does it mean?

  • GER DUANY:

    It means great white cow.

  • REESE WITHERSPOON:

    OK. Well it's better than a lot of things I have been called.

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    We're very tough people, Americans. We're capable of being so kind and wonderful.

    But we're hard on people who are different than we are. So one of the things the film does is, you're in the point of view of these boys and their experience. Through the whole first 35 minutes, you know their background, you know them intimately. Then they land in the United States, and we see how we, the United States, see people like them.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Do you remember that transition, when you first landed in the United States, and what that was like?

  • GER DUANY:

    Very vivid, yes, very.

    I remember, when I landed here in 1994, May 24, 1994, and I was about fifteen years old, I just admit that in the back of my head, like, I'm really a lost — a lost boy now.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Now you're really lost, huh?

  • GER DUANY:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • GER DUANY:

    I was lost in this world.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And what about now?

  • GER DUANY:

    Now I think I'm leading the world in choices.

    Since I became an American — and I'm truly just like any other American kids — an opportunity coming my way, I just try to capitalize on them. Otherwise, I never have fire to pursue movies. But now I'm here.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The movie is "The Good Lie."

    Ger Duany and Margaret Nagle, thank you both very much.

  • GER DUANY:

    Thank you.

  • MARGARET NAGLE:

    Thank you.

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