David Alexander works with Micklina Peter Kenyi shooting B roll for ‘The Dawn Will Break.’

‘Dawn’ Salutes Lost Girls, Sainted Sister

Michael Fox August 17, 2011

A collaborative project recounts the life and work of a German-born nun located outside Nairobi and the Sudanese Lost Girls she helped find.

The painful, hopeful saga of the Lost Boys of Sudan has been widely documented and reported. But what about the Lost Girls who were orphaned by the civil war and rescued and relocated to the U.S.? They exist, and they’ve begun to make their voices heard. Via oral histories initially, then with the 2010 short film Rumors of War, and soon in a documentary that pays tribute to their savior and champion.

All three projects represent a collaboration between producer Micklina Peter Kenyi, the first Lost Girl to relocate to Colorado in 2003, and San Francisco-based director David Alexander. The largest single contingent of Southern Sudanese women in the country now lives in Boulder (18), and Kenyi encouraged them to include video workshops and interviewing techniques in their studies at Colorado University. When they set about recording their stories, a philanthropist involved with the girls asked Alexander if he would help on a volunteer basis.

“The girls told amazing stories of what happened to them when soldiers came and attacked their villages,” Alexander recalls, “and each would end their story with ‘I was helpless and this woman helped us.’ I said, ‘This could be more than a compilation of oral histories. It could be a film about Sister Luise.”

The Dawn Will Break: Sister Luise Radlmeier and the Lost Girls of Sudan recounts the life and work of a German-born nun located outside Nairobi, Kenya, not far from the Sudanese border and the Kakuma refugee camp. Profoundly affected by World War II as a child, she committed herself to the innocent victims of subsequent wars.

In Sudan, the victims were treated rather differently. While boys were sent to camps for unaccompanied minors, girls were placed with foster families in the refugee camp, where they had to work.

“Foster parents had you fetch water and firewood,” Kenyi reports, “and once someone approached them to marry the girl, they married the girl off and got the dowry.”

“If they could make it to Sister Luise in Nairobi,” Alexander continues, “she could save them. She had operatives in the camp [letting her know] if girls were having a hard time. So Sister Luise is well known in the camp.”

Alexander, whose production company specializes in short films, TV commercials and music videos, is supervising the editing of The Dawn Will Break at his SF post facility. The plan is for a feature-length film, although they’re talking with a television network about a one-hour version. He anticipates finishing the doc by the first of the year, if they can come up with the funding for the final edit.

The ambitious Kenyi, who’s pursuing her Master’s degree in educational foundations, policies and practice, plans to return to Sudan next May to build a school with a playground, dispensary, water facility and perhaps a small chapel.

“Of course, life in the U.S. is comfortable and the system is running OK, but who is going to help the women there develop?” she says. “With all the struggles we’ve been through, we have big, big work ahead of us. Let this film be like a knock on the door, that the real work is now going to happen and we’re going to need more help from people.”

Alexander anticipates an additional effect that The Dawn Will Break can have on American audiences who either don’t recognize or don’t acknowledge the assimilated immigrants in their midst.

“In your community, all you have to do is take a minute and get to know them and support them,” he says. “A lot of the refugees who come to this country have been through a lot. When you ignore them, you add to their suffering.”

To view the trailer, visit

Notes from the Underground
The U.S. Postal Service will release a Great Film Directors series of stamps in 2012. The set honors John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston and a fourth filmmaker to be announced shortly. We vote for Orson Welles, but it’s more likely to be Howard Hawks.

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