As teens, they trekked across sub-Saharan Africa, fleeing their country’s male-genital mutilation and civil war but, in the process, leaping into an abyss of starvation. They buried their brothers and sisters by the thousands. But the luckiest of Sudan’s “Lost Boys” now face an entirely new challenge, as seen in the largely positive spin of God Grew Tired of Us: life in Pittsburgh. The doc follows a trio who, along with other Africans sponsored by U.S. foreign aid, come to live in America, smile benignly at the prospect of McJobs, enroll in community college and winningly look forward to a future of capitalist betterment. We know they’ve seen worse.
Nothing in this well-meaning doc, narrated by Nicole Kidman in sober Interpreter mode, strikes an offensive tone; there’s even a Borat-worthy sequence of learning about light switches and toilets. But the film’s most provocative idea—that these Lost Boys’ innate sense of cultural identity and responsibility to each other is increasingly besieged—gets short shrift. Can there really be no footage of their uncertainty, anger at unfriendly Americans, even an embrace of bad habits? Their broad smiles, halting but impressive English and faultless politeness get a little tired; do we really need a tearful mother-son reunion as well? This can’t be the whole story. (Opens Fri; Landmark Sunshine.) — Joshua Rothkopf