Early last April, Malachi Leopold of Left Brain/Right Brain Productions departed for the Sudan to shoot a short documentary about the reunion of Kuek Garang, one of 27,000 “lost” Sudanese boys, and his parents.
Now, one year later, Leopold’s “22 Years From Home” has its Chicago premiere April 23 at Chicago Filmmakers and another screening April 27 at the Music Box.
Garang fled the second Sudanese Civil War at age 6 for refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, settling in Chicago as a young man.
Garang is president of the Chicago Association of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
“The primary purpose of the film is to both raise awareness of the ongoing situation in Sudan and the Sister Schools initiative created to raise money for the education of more than 700 children in a Sudanese village,” says Leopold.
Three weeks after they first made contact, Leopold followed Garang’s return to Sudan last spring at age 28 to find his family and build the only school for his little village of Wernyol, with funds raised in the U.S.
Leopold’s film was funded by $10,000 from USA for UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees).
Leopold was accompanied by a DP and two New York producers. They edited pro bono at MTV’s New York studios, as part of MTV’s on-going activist support for Sudan refugees.
Last August, “22 Years” premiered theatrically in a weeklong run at New York’s Village East Cinema. Leopold is in talks with PBS about a tentative June broadcast, and he’s planning a college tour. The DVD releases May 1 through Amazon.
Leopold is also developing the five-film series “The Question of Islam for the West,” including documentary and narrative projects about “Bosnian Anne Frank” Zlata Filipovic, a venture capital fund in Palestine, and two films set in Iran.
“I’m concerned with how Islam…has come to replace what Communism used to be for the West,” Leopold says.
“I have five family members deployed in the military campaign of the ‘War on Terror’—in Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Middle East. So I ask myself, ‘What can I do?’ The answer is these five films, all paired with social action campaigns.”
“22 Years From Home” premieres April 23 at 8 p.m. at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St. and screens with Seattle filmmaker Jen Marlowe’s Sudan documentary “Rebuilding Hope.”
Kuek Aleu Garang and Wheaton resident Garang Mayuol, subject of “Rebuilding Hope,” will attend.
Also: Screening April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Post-screening panel discussion with Garang and Leopold.
Leopold’s phone is 773/935-2434. See LBRBProductions.com.
Another local production company, Endless Eye Productions, is also working on a slate of mission-driven films with similar interests in Sudan and Islam.
Their in-progress “Library Project” is a multimedia documentation, in collaboration with Sudanese villagers, of Endless Eye’s three-year effort with Lost Boy Machien Luoi’s North Dakota nonprofit PACODES, to build a library designed by Chicago architect Usma Mirza in Southern Sudan, planned to open in 2011.
“Everyone in the village and the surrounding villages are tired of depending on foreign [non-governmental organizations] that create such a dependency,” producer Sean Fahey says. “All they do is put a band-aid over a problem rather than treating and curing the disease.”
In March, Endless Eye completed production on the feature documentary “A Message From the East,” about Pakistani national poet Muhammad Iqbal, a key figure in the founding of Pakistan. Endless Eye is also conducting a media literacy program at the Inner City Muslim Action Network in Marquette Park.
See —Ed M. Koziarski