Survival Story: 'God Grew Tired of Us'

ByABC News
January 17, 2007, 3:30 PM

Jan. 17, 2006 — -- At the center of all the glamour and excitement of the premiere of a new Hollywood documentary were three Sudanese refugees who, until recently, had never even heard of Brad Pitt or Nicole Kidman -- two actors who would eventually play big roles in their lives.

Six years ago, John Bul Dau, 34, Daniel Abul Pach, 25, and Panther Bior, 27, were living in mud huts in a refugee camp in the African nation of Kenya, and had never used electricity or toilets. They had never even heard of a shower or an apartment.

Today they have new lives here in the United States after an extraordinary journey that was, in part, documented by a film crew. Just last week, ABC News caught up with these young men as they mingled with a host of A-list celebrities on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of "God Grew Tired of Us," the documentary based on their story.

This award-winning new film traces the journey of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" as they traveled from a refugee camp to start a new life in America.

At the premiere, Kidman snapped photos with Dau, Pach and Bior as Angelina Jolie expressed her gratitude to them for bringing their story to the screen. "You guys are my heroes," she told them. "You've survived so much -- and you're just so strong. I'm so glad you're here. You can teach us so many things about life that many people don't know in this town."

They became known as the "lost boys" because, as children, they were forced from their homes in the Christian-dominated southern Sudan when Muslim militias from the north invaded their villages and sought to kill every male child in the region.

In 1993, an estimated 25,000 "lost boys" gathered in groups -- makeshift families -- and headed for the neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya to escape the ravages of genocide. The harrowing journey took several months, and along the way, the boys faced attacks by government troops, starvation, and disease. There were only 12,000 boys left by the end of the journey.

In his new book, released by National Geographic in conjunction with the film, Dau describes climbing trees to catch grasshoppers that they would later cook over an open fire, just to eat the tiniest bit of protein. He also caught and roasted turtles, and ate boiled elephant meat that was so tough he could barely chew the smallest piece. The "lost boys" also ate mud for the bit of moisture it held to quench their incredible thirst along the way to the border.