The documentary, “Out of Nowhere,” debuted at two special screenings over the weekend in The Grand Theatre, as part of the opening of SLCC’s new Center for Arts & Media.
The film tells the story of Dut Bior, an SLCC alumnus, as he traveled back to Kenya and Uganda in 2012, reuniting with his mother whom he had not seen in over 20 years.
“I thought that it was emotionally powerful, compelling when told through the eyes of Dut,” says Cynthia Bioteau, President of SLCC, who was in attendance at the second screening. “More importantly, for me in education, it was such an affirmation of how important education is.”
The film opens with scenes of African children running through dusty roads, as the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan is touched on briefly.
It is here that a sense of the hardships faced by Bior and many others begins to germinate as countless children run through a desolate landscape.
Bior and his friend Malak, were two of the thousands of Lost Boys who were thrust out of their homes during the second Sudanese Civil War, which separated them from their families. Bior was chosen from among the surviving refugees to come to the United States in 2006 and receive an education.
Hope emerges as filmmakers, Alex Mack and Amy Bronson, show scenes of flying in an airplane over a landscape of darkness overcome only by city lights below. Bior explains how the opportunity to leave Kakuma was like leaving darkness and his excitement grew at the prospect of moving away from the depressive refugee camp and going to the United States where the opportunities for education that he longed for could be realized.
Leaving his friend Malak behind, Bior promises to send money to help his friend continue his education, which Bior does, first by sending whatever money he can cobble together, and then by starting the non-profit, Student Orphan Aid Program (SOAP) International. Bior’s non-profit sponsors the education of orphans in third world countries such as Malak, whose graduation from the Sunshine Secondary School in Nairobi is documented as one of the highlights in the film.
The film shows how important education is for the children of the refugee camps.
Hundreds of children from first grade through high school are crammed into the small school at Kakuma, which exceeds its capacity by approximately 400 students. But the children make sacrifices, such as going without lunch, because an education is seen as the only way out of their impoverished conditions.
“It’s the only thing that will make their lives better,” says the principal of the school, as she explains how they do the best they can to teach the children with the few resources they have.
Bior comes face to face with the ghosts of his past, watching through the windows of the truck, driving towards Kakuma, past mountains, trains and hordes of people. Bior talks about the difficulty of seeing these things, reminding him of what he went through in the camp.
Walking into the camp and being surrounded by children, Bior reconciles these demons.
“Coming back to Kakuma, I came back with a hope, and when I was there I was searching for it…it was a very intense realization and contrast of who I was as a refugee and what I’ve become,” says Bior.
Joy comes full circle as Bior reunites with his mother and a brother he had never met before this trip.
“One of the most pleasant surprises that I remember from the trip was when we went in with Dut to finally meet his mother and the rest of his family for the first time in 20 years. They just burst into song after maybe five minutes of us being there,” says Jason McFarland, sound technician and SLCC intern who was hired to assist Bronson and Mack with the filming of the documentary.