Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Even in Sudan.
FORMS: Documentary, Feature
GENRES: Human Rights, Independent, War/Peace
NICHES: African, Third World
A custodian. A housewife. A pediatrician. A grandmother. Seemingly ordinary individuals. Yet these individuals have a story to tell. It is the story of suffering and death. It is the story of refugees. It is the story of terrified villagers running for cover. Yet, at the same time, it is a story of strength, courage and hope. It is the story of Sudan. Over the last 20 years, millions have died in Sudan. A civil war devastated the South and currently a genocide is occurring in the western region of Darfur. Facing Sudan is the story of ordinary individuals, moved into action by the events in Sudan. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things, even in Sudan.
Brian Burns is a seemingly ordinary person. When we meet him, he is sweeping the floors in a suburban high school. But looks can be deceiving. Brian has a story to tell. It is a story of suffering. It is a story of death. It is a story of refugees running for cover at the ominous sound of a plane engine. But it is also the story of strength, courage and hope.
It is the story of Sudan.
Told through the eyes of ordinary people, living seemingly ordinary lives, Facing Sudan is truly about the Sudanese people struggling to survive. It is the story of the countless thousands who live day to day in refugee camps. It is the story of the world's reaction to the atrocities and violence in that war-torn African nation.
The film demonstrates that seemingly ordinary individuals can do extraordinary things.
A custodian. A housewife. A pediatrician. A grandmother. Seemingly ordinary individuals. Yet these individuals have a story to tell.
It is the story of Sudan and what it takes to make a difference there.
Brian Burns was a custodian, sweeping floors in a suburban high school when we first met. This young man, invisible to most people at the school, has a tremendous story to tell. It is the story of suffering, death and, ultimately, of hope.
It is the story of Sudan.
I didn't intend to make a full-length feature film about the situation in Sudan. In fact, I just set out to make a short, educational film in which Brian discusses his work in Sudan. But when we sat down for a first interview, the stories he told me about babies dying in his arms, about government planes harassing villages, I knew this story could not be told in ten minutes.
I started to put a longer cut together but then an amazing thing happened: I began meeting more ordinary people who have an intense passion for Sudan: a grandmother, a pediatrician, a textbook editor and mother, a few refugees from that war-torn nation, a high school senior.
Facing Sudan is not just about the country and its history of conflict. It is about activism. It is about hope and compassion. It is through their stories that we can glimpse the passion---the spark---that has driven these people to dedicate their lives to a country torn apart by war and genocide.
Each of them face Sudan in their own way and through them, we can learn not only about the situation in that country, but perhaps a little about ourselves.
And, more importantly, recognize that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
"Meeting Brian Burns"
It was a Friday like any other. I was sitting in my classroom, organizing my iTunes files on my laptop. It was 4 pm and it was somewhat unusual that I was still in school on a Friday that late. I had lost track of time when I heard someone enter my room.
A skinny young man with red hair entered. He was vaguely familiar. And then I realized that I had seen him around the building, sweeping floors.
He was a custodian.
"Who do I talk to about Sudan?" he asked. "I saw the fliers in the hall."
I was the sponsor of a student group entitled Teens Against Genocide (TAG) and we had organizational posters all over the school announcing our next meeting.
"I am the sponsor," I said. "But we will not be meeting until next Wednesday." I then looked back down at my computer.
"My name is Brian Burns," the young man continued. "I've been to Sudan."
I stopped my work at the computer and looked back up. The young man was leaning against the door frame, his hands nervously tucked in his pockets.
"You've been there?" I asked.
"Yes," he responded. "Twice."
And that's how we met. If it weren't for that meeting on that Friday at a time that I was normally not in the building, this film never would have been made.
"John Dut's Son"
John was a Lost Boy who had married a woman he had met in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Even after he had been selected to come to the United States, they had decided to get married. The marriage was approved in Sudan by her family and was conducted in Kenya, due to the fact that John, as a refugee, could not re-enter Sudan.
John and Elizabeth stayed together in Kenya for about a month. And then he returned to the United States, not knowing when he was going to get a chance to see her again.
She was pregnant when he left and he was unable to be there when she gave birth. In fact, he would go for several months without even seeing a picture of his wife or newborn son.
Jackie Kraus, a volunteer with the Chicago Association for the Lost Boys of Sudan, traveled to Sudan last February and made a point to visit Elizabeth. She took pictures and brought back video so that John could finally see the face of his child.
Jackie met John a few hours after arriving back in Chicago. I received word and just arrived as John was opening up an envelope with his son's picture.
John stood in a hallway for some time viewing the photos and watching the video that Jackie brought back.
"Do you think I am going to sleep?" he said to me. "No, I am just going to watch this all night."
Click here for information about the filmmakers.
a documentary film by Bruce David Janu
Running Time: 90minutes
Music by Tom Flannery and Lorne Clarke
Bell, Book & Camera Productions