I had been hearing about this movie for quite some time. Friends of mine, who are South Sudanese, started talking about it, about how their friends were being cast in it and about how they were so excited for this movie. They were proud – proud to finally have their stories declared on the big screen. Maybe, even, their stories would be heard.
When I sent a message to one friend, whose relative plays Jeremiah, to tell her I’d just watched it, her response was: “Wow, thanks for doing that!!!” You see, this movie is a bit of an offering, vulnerable and hopeful and real, handed out to an unaware world – who may be too busy to notice, too booked to make time, too broken to care. It’s a story that needs to be told, but even more importantly – it needs to be heard.
Will their stories be heard? Will their pain be validated? Because it’s a difficult thing to do, to put yourself out there – wounds and all – and just long for someone to go there with you. Someone to acknowledge the suffering, to take your hand and just whisper, “I’m sorry. How horrific and wrong.”
And, this movie – it’s not just stars and Hollywood for many South Sudanese refugees. It represents the honor of their community on display. It’s presented to the world with pride, solemnly, in hope that we will care to enter into their past and walk with them a bit. It’s an invitation, and I’m eager to see people respond with open arms.
Living life daily with refugees and their families from South Sudan has changed me. I count it a privilege, for the resilience and strength I’ve witnessed far surpasses my own. I think the character of Carrie (Reese Witherspoon) understands that. She understands that it’s not really about helping others but it’s about letting herself be helped out of her own small world and into a brand new perspective.
I have been waiting for a movie like this for years. Why? Because I’ve wanted someone to put into words and into pictures the heart-stopping stories I see walking around in skin in my neighborhood. I long for average people to look into their eyes and become aware, maybe even moved, by the depths of living and experiences these beautiful individuals carry – even if that only means of looking into those eyes on a movie screen. At least it’s a start.
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