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Film and Discussion Illustrate The Destruction In Sudan

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On Tuesday, Nov. 16, between 7:30 -9:30 p.m., Roanoke College students, faculty, and community members were treated to a screening of Rebuilding Hope hosted by Jen Marlowe, the director of the film with the same name. The documentary is about three men who return to their villages in Sudan after almost 20 years away due to a civil war that ravaged the country. After the screening, Marlowe took questions from the audience about various issues affecting Sudan. The screening was sponsored by the African Studies Concentration and was part of International Education Week at RC.

  “I thought it was really well done. It outlined the main things happening in Sudan,” said Chris Mazzola ’12.

 According to the film, Sudan is the largest country in Africa with a population of roughly 40 million people. The country is a former British colony that had favoritism towards a particular group of Muslims, creating tension. Sudan has had two civil wars in its history. The last major civil war took place from 1983 until 2005 when a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was negotiated between the rebel group and the government. The U.S. also helped with the negotiations.

Koor Garang, Gabriel Bol Deng, and Garang Mayuol were part of the group of “lost boys” who left their families during the civil war to escape to a refugee camp in Kenya where they lived for nine years. From there, all three men came to the U.S. and were adopted by different host families. None of them have been back to Sudan since the civil war and were not even aware if their families were still alive or if their villages still existed.

 The film recounts their journey back to Sudan where each of them tried to give back to their communities. For instance, Bol Deng was told by his dying father to get an education and fortunately he was able to get a college degree. In the hopes of making life easier for others in his village, he set up a nongovernmental organization to provide a school for the children to attend. He believed that education was essential to a healthy lifestyle and to a person’s survival.

 “Health and education go hand in hand.  They are not separate things,” Bol Deng said in the film.  

Mayuol was able to dig wells to provide clean water for his village to stop a cholera epidemic that occurred while he was there. Garang became a nurse and made the decision to build a health clinic and provide medicine for those who were ill. He also gave out mosquito nets to prevent Malaria.

Along the way, Marlowe captured the tearful reunions between the families reuniting with their children. Marlowe later noted that she sometimes felt intrusive filming these reunion scenes, but the men asked her to shoot the footage regardless.

“Generally speaking, they greeted us with open arms,” Marlow said.

At the end of the screening, she gave students a chance to ask questions. The questions mainly concerned the current status of Sudan. Marlowe explained that in January, southern Sudan will face a crucial referendum that will decide whether it should declare independence or stay united with Sudan. This is part of the CPA signed in 2005. The other part of the referendum is whether Abyei, which has oil reserves, will be part of the north or the south. If the proper precautions are not taken, the country could launch right back into civil war.

Marlowe is an award winning filmmaker and author. She makes films and writes books that coincide with her activism. One of her earlier films was about the Israel/Palestine conflict and her last film about Sudan was called Darfur Diaries chronicling the genocide. Students can visit rebuildinghopesudan.org for more information about her project.  

Photo Credit: Google Images