From Child Soldier to Filmmaker Activist: Ger Duany’s Story

*Click on GER TO BE SEPARATE to watch the video*

Hi everyone,

It’s Friday! How are you doing? I’m excited about today’s post: it’s all about making history and recording it. ‘How?’ you might wonder? So glad you asked.

Allow me to introduce you to Ger Duany. Ger was a former child soldier and lost boy, who fled the war in Sudan, and walked to Ethiopia, then Kenya, faced trials most of us can’t imagine going through, before finding his way to America. GER: TO BE SEPARATE is a documentary filmed by award winning Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu (FROM A WHISPER, PUMZI). The documentary is in its final stages. A fundraising has been put in place to help cover the remaining cost. Please, please, spread the word… 🙂

Here’s more about the project, from the producer’s account–Again, PLEASE, spread the word if you can:

You’ve probably watched “Lost Boys of Sudan” or “God Grew Tired of Us” in theaters and you cried your heart out and subconsciously still wonder, how the hell are these lost boys from Sudan adapting to the American life-style?

Well, it’s your lucky day because they are doing fine, well, at least we know one of them is and his name is Ger Duany. No, he wasn’t in either films mentioned above, but, he was one of the child soldiers and lost boys who fled the war in the formerly united Sudan and walked for miles to get to a refugee camp in Ethiopia then Kenya, and after many struggles he was one of the lucky ones that made it out on a plane to America.

In America, he encountered many obstacles but fate led him to his debut on Hollywood’s silver screen where he played a refugee in the movie “I Heart Huckabees”.  Director David O. Russell said he wanted someone who endured the real life experience of being a refugee to play the role. Soon after, Ger met supermodel Tyson Beckford, who saw Ger’s modeling potential which opened doors to a modeling career and a shoot with photographer Norman Watson and many other photographers.

And so during all these years and the distance he lost touch with his family and land, but in January 2011, he hopped onto another plane this time back to South Sudan to vote for independence. And in July 2011, South Sudan finally got its well-deserved freedom and Ger was there to celebrate his new nation’s independence, search for his family, and help build South Sudan.

Awesome right?!? Don’t you think this story would make a heartfelt real-life documentary? The kind that would complete the Lost Boys of Sudan trilogy that we got going on here? Well, the good news is that award winning Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu (From a Whisper, Pumzi ) has been documenting Ger’s life for the past year and she has captured some wonderful footage and the documentary is in the final stage of production. We’re very close to completing this unique documentary and like any creatively awesome and life changing endeavor, we need moolah to finish this project. So we’re knocking at your door and hoping you’ll pledge and donate what you can to finish the editing of this unique story. We’re counting on you to help us see this through!

Thank you.

Adaptation Controversy: AVATAR’s THE LAST AIRBENDER

Hi everyone,

this will be a short post, because I hope that you all read the article that I will link below. I’m not sure if you are aware of the controversy surrounding the movie THE LAST AIRBENDER. (Note: the movie Prince of Persia came under the same criticism not too long ago)

THE LAST AIRBENDER is an adaptation of a popular animated television series called AVATAR which was broadcast on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons Network. The series heavily borrows elements of traditional Asian cultures. The casting of the main characters drew the ire of several people over the world–yes, because the original series is just that popular–especially in Asia and Northern America, with some putting together videos, and several others writing about what is seen as a tiring case of hegemonic cultural pattern (aka racebending) when it comes to Hollywood’s take of stories featuring or set in a non-Western culture. Because it has become a matter of “fair equal opportunity for all”, several will boycott the movie.

Before moving further with this topic, I personally think that the situation has improved a little bit; not saying it’s enough (for my taste), but I have reasons to believe it will continue to improve (I have faith in the people getting together and actually doing something about it). I’m thinking of Disney’s the Princess and the Frog, Mulan, the latest Karate Kid (the title stirs another debate, but what an enjoyable movie)… However The Last Airbender has me shake my head once again (a setback) and raises a number of questions, best expressed in this article by Q. Le. Here’s an extract of the article:
“Though I’m not a particular fan of the show (nor do I dislike it) and am simply neutral overall, I feel that it is necessary to state for several reasons why I will not support this movie for professional, philosophical and personal reasons. ”
What follows is a thorough explanation and exploration of the positive and negative aspects of that issue. I command the author for his/her extensive research.

Courtesy of Q. Le’s page, here’s a picture of the original cast and the one in the movie.

So the same old question rises again:
o Does race matter?
o One of the excuses given by Night Shyamalan, the movie director, is that the story is set in a fictional world. Okay. Does race matter?
o The original work was geared toward children. So is the movie, for the most part. Does race matter?

Edited 07/01/2010: Tarie, thank you for bringing Q. Le’s article to my attention!