“The Good Lie” opened on October 3 in limited release following a September bow at the Toronto Film Festival. It features Reese Witherspoon as an American woman who helps four Sudanese refugees – among more than 20,000 children known as the Lost Boys of Sudan – adjust to life in the United States, but the real stars of the film are the Lost Boys themselves. Actors Emmanuel Jal, Ger Duany, and Kuoth Wiel were among the real Lost Boys, and Arnold Oceng, in a noteworthy breakthrough performance, is a British-raised son of a Sudanese man.
After a screening on September 30, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made sure to remind the audience that the violence and displacement that plagued the nation aren’t finished. South Sudan broke off from Sudan in 2011 after a long fight for independence, but it erupted into another civil war in 2013. Of the film, Power said, “I don’t think I needed motivation to work harder … But if I needed motivation, this film provides it, and I will never forget it. It’s a remarkable work.”
She added, “It’s also such a reminder … of also how much power each of us has as a citizen to do something good in the day.”
Jal, now a musician, appropriately described his rise from Lost Boy to American success story in verse: “I’m a war child, a Lost Boy, Lucifer tried to destroy, with so much pain and very little joy. Kalashnikov was my childhood toy. We came from the bottom like lobsters. We’re now rolling on the top like rock stars.”
Duany was “probably seven or eight” when the civil war broke out, “and my mom and I, we really dodged a lot of bullets … Watching this movie is pretty much parallel to my own life story.”
Added Wiel, “It’s a surreal feeling to watch this movie play out because it’s all of our lives. I remember from being a very young child being displaced, not having a place called home.”
Oceng doesn’t have first-hand experience of the civil war, but the film did resonate with him on a personal level. “I come from a family of refugees. My mum is Ugandan, and my father’s from South Sudan, and my father passed away when I was two, so I didn’t grow up knowing my father at all,” he said. “So me being part of this movie was me re-opening that book … Personally, me being part of this film was like a tribute to my father. I wanted to just make him proud.”
“The Good Lie” opened to generally positive reviews (scoring 65 on MetaCritic and 84% on Rotten Tomatoes), though it’s an Oscar underdog according to our racetrack odds (click here to see our latest Best Picture predictions). Witherspoon may indeed make a trip to the awards, but our odds favor her for a Best Actress bid in “Wild” (click here to see where she ranks with our experts).
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