It was mind-boggling to see so many A-list celebrities at a documentary premiere, but there they were, converging on Los Angeles’ Pacific Design Center last night for the premiere of God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary that follows the stories of three Sudanese refugees who eventually get the chance of a lifetime: to live and work in America. For Christopher Quinn, who was virtually an unknown filmmaker before this, it must have seemed like a dream. He had backing from Brad Pitt, Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney as producers, and Nicole Kidman as narrator, all of whom were in attendance, along with Angelina Jolie, Edward Norton, Johnny Knoxville and Roseanne Barr. (Pictured, left, at the premiere are Jolie, Mulroney, producer Eric Gilliland, Kidman, and Pitt.)
How did Quinn get them on board? Mulroney grew up with Quinn in Alexandria, Va., and Kidman and Pitt are friends with Keener, who has a child with Mulroney. Voilà! “He ran into a brick wall, and I just kind of helped get around the obstacle,” Mulroney told PopWatch before the screening. “And then it flew forward to Sundance and won two amazing awards there: Jury Prize and the Audience Awards.”
The film is about Daniel Abul Pach, Panther Bior, and John Dau, who were young boys when civil war drove them out of their southern Sudan homeland in the late ’80s. They escaped death only to face a tumultuous 1,000-mile walk, first to Ethiopia, then to a UN refugee camp in Kenya. (Those who survived the walk became known as the Lost Boys.) There, they would convene on the “White House” to entertain themselves on the days — “black” they’d call them — when they’d run out of food and desperately wanted to pass the time. On many days, all they had to cling to were their own thoughts. “I thought God felt tired of us and wanted to finish us,” Dau remembers of the destruction and destitution in Africa.addCredit(“Angelina Jolie, Dermot Mulroney, Eric Gilliland, Nicole Kidman, and Brad Pitt: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com”)
In 2001, the United States agreed to relocate some of the Lost Boysto the United States so that they could learn how to support themselvesby working and going to school. On the way over, they contemplate theairplane food: “Is that milk? Is that meat? I cannot tell.” (Americanshave never been able to figure it out either!) As entertaining as it isto watch the trio experience a number of firsts: riding an escalator,eating a potato chip, watching how electricity works and how runningwater flows hot and cold, they face the difficulties of reconcilingtheir old life (in most cases, the people they’ve left behind) withtheir new Pepsi-glazed lives. Watching them go to the grocery store forthe first time — not touching the produce, as if they were in a museum– is both endearing and shameful, considering that we Americans takethose things for granted. “[When] you travel you see the immensesuffering over there and you come back here and see how fortunate weare,” Pitt noted before the screening. “Sometimes there’s this idea ofwell, we can help ours first. It’s this high school mentality of it’sour side versus their side. One issue doesn’t cancel out the other.”
It was touching to see all of these A-listers there, side-by-sidewith Daniel, Panther and John, sincerely trying to get the word outabout Sudan. Sincere because a) it’s a rarity to see such unifyingstar-power at a documentary premiere; and b) it’s not like Brangelina needed the PR.