The Lost Boys of Sudan are not your typical leading men. But, their painful yet powerful story is the focus of a new film creating some buzz in Hollywood. “The Good Lie” follows the lives of three Sudanese refugees who escape their home country during the brutal Second Civil War to come to America. The film stars newcomers Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany and Emmanuel Jal, who are actual Sudanese actors. Duany was once a Lost Boy before becoming a model and Jal is a hip-hop artist who was a child soldier in Sudan. Reese Witherspoon also stars as the employment agency counselor who helps the refugees acclimate to their new life in America.
As you can tell, the story is pretty unique to Hollywood, which often cranks out sappy romantic comedies and action-packed thrillers. But, it was the Lost Boys’ inspiring and personally touching story that encouraged producer Molly Smith to sign on to the project. She spoke to Townhall about her emotional decision.
Faith plays a role in this film and that’s not something we typically see in the theater. That seemed to be a trend this year, with films like “Heaven is for Real” and the “Son of God” movie. Do you think this is an indication that there is more of a demand for faith-based films?
“Absolutely. I think it’s a direct answer to that and I think it’s really that these audiences are craving entertainment. This film and story of the Lost Boys is an incredible story of faith and has all of the values I feel will appeal to faith-based audiences.”
You’ve talked about how your own family adopted a Lost Boy from Sudan when you were younger. Can you talk about how much of a role this personal experience played in your decision to produce the film?
“I was really lucky to know some of the Lost Boys that came over and were resettled in Memphis, Tennessee, where I’m from. My sister actually met three of the guys three months after their arrival, at church and invited them to our holidays that year with my family. One of them in particular, a guy named Joseph Atem, just really became instantly a part of our family. He’s a wonderful guy and worked several jobs, trying to save up to go to school and my parents ended up helping him achieve that. He went to Christian Brothers University in Memphis and he’s now a Ph.D. engineer. He’s just an incredible guy and when I got the script I was really touched to be reading his story and felt kind of like it was fate. It came at the perfect time when my partners and I were in a new indie production company and we felt like we had to make this our first film.”
I’m sure Joseph learned a lot from you and your family, but is there one thing you learned from him?
“His spirit. To have gone through – this is what I’ve learned from so many of the Lost Boys – to have gone through what they’ve gone through and their journey, and the fact that they are here, with a huge smile on their face and inspired, wanting to learn more every day and work harder. It really is his spirit and work ethic that has touched me in a huge way.”
Why should audience goers choose this film over the typical chick flick or something like that?
“It’s rare a film can be entertaining but also educational and inspiring. I think, I hope this film has all of that in one. You leave this film, it’s really kind of an emotional experience this movie and when you see the film you’ll see what I mean. But, the screenwriter really does a really beautiful job of taking you on their journey with them as children and I think it’s unique in that way. And also, she told it in a way that there is a lot of humor in the film too. I think people expect when they hear ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ something really heavy, but it’s also a really entertaining, fun film as well and so I hope audiences will respond to that.”
The film is rated PG-13, but would you say this is a film for the whole family?
“I do believe it’s a film for the whole family. The only reason it’s PG-13 is some obvious violence in the beginning of their journey. These are children of war. But I do believe it’s absolutely for the whole family and you know we have been screening for children and audiences and they’ve loved the film. It’s educational.”
This film is similar to "The Blind Side" in that it also has an inspiring message. Are these the kinds of films you prefer choosing over other films?
“I like stories that are going to move you in one way or another into an emotional experience and you know I guess I’m drawn and my partners and I are drawn to stories with heart and stories with substance, and this was certainly one of that.”
Any new projects?
“We’ve got a film in production right now called 'Demolition,' with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jean-Marc Vallee, who did 'Dallas Buyers Club' and 'Wild' and we’re shooting that currently in New York. We’ve got a couple things in the works that’s in production now."
Kudos to Smith for continually choosing to produce films that offer audiences more than explosions. ‘The Good Lie’ is packed with substance and heart. It opens October 3 - make sure to set a family date for this one.
For more insight into the presence of faith in Hollywood, read "Lights! Camera! Evangelism!," which was featured in the June issue of Townhall Magazine.