Examines Guor Mading Maker's difficult yet triumphant journey from refugee to world-renowned athlete.
Directed by Bill Gallagher
Produced by Bill Gallagher
Writing & Editing: Bill Gallagher, Eric Daniel Metzger
Original Music: Eduardo Aram
Executive Producers: Jay Narain, Lindsay Narain
Cinematography: Nikki Bramley, Jacob Benjamin Ateny, Peter Gume, Liam Iandoli
When he was only 8 years old, Guor Mading Maker (formally known as Guor Marial) ran from captivity in war-torn Sudan to eventually seek safety in the US. In his new life, Maker began running again, participating in high school track and field and eventually becoming a sensation and qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. But because the newly formed South Sudan was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, Maker had to fight to compete independently, refusing to run for Sudan and taking a stand against its oppression.
"Inspiring and heart-wrenching...[shows] the power of sport as a unifying force and the importance of folding refugees into the community." Jules Boykoff, Prof, Politics & Government, Pacific U
RUNNER depicts Maker's difficult yet triumphant journey from refugee to a world-renowned athlete, told in intimate interviews with gorgeously animated flashbacks of Guor's upbringing, and culminating in a heart-wrenching reunion with his parents after a 20-year separation. His story is a distinctly inspirational one in which the indomitable human spirit emerges against all odds.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2019
DVD ISBN: 1-961192-03-9
"Riveting, enjoyable, and heart-wrenching from beginning to end. Guor Mading Maker is an inspirational, one-of-a-kind talent, and everything one might need to know about him is captured in Gallagher's exhilarating documentary."
Kyle Bain, Film Threat
"There are so many fascinating aspects to Runner that one barely knows where to begin. Sports, immigration issues and the violent, war-torn history of Sudan are but a few of the topics dealt with in Bill Gallagher's engrossing documentary...An inspirational tale."
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
"This stirring documentary will shake you to the core."
Spirituality and Practice
"This is a riveting tale of a man's road from pain to international prosperity, giving everything for his nation's ability to dream; to run; to live. Through sacrifice, injury, separation, suffrage, survival, and with an entire nation resting on his shoulders, Runner showcases a man's relentless will to exemplify the power and pride of nationalism in sport - as a lifeline of hope and resilience."
A. Lamont Williams, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, San Jose State University
"If hope needed a home, Runner would deliver the perfect dwelling place. This documentary challenged my intellectual understanding of the Olympic Movement and my emotional response to the generational suffering of displaced persons and refugees. The twists and turns of Guor Maker's life and athletic career kept me on the edge of my seat and in the end evoked a deeper commitment to using the power of sport to create moments of hope, healing, and reconciliation."
Sarah Hillyer, Founder and Director, Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
"Runner is a powerful documentary which masterfully depicts the complex realities experienced in the lives of so many refugees around the world-trauma, pain, loss, uncertainty, perseverance, grace, and hope intermingled together. Guor's victory was not in winning, but in running despite of all of the obstacles that he faced along the way, and in turn strengthening others in the journey. There are life lessons in this film for all of us."
Dr. Karen Fancher, Professor of Global Development and Justice Studies, Multnomah University
"In Runner, Guor Marial punches through the thicket of sports and politics to carve a circuitous - and miraculous - path to the Olympics. Inspiring and heart-wrenching in equal measure, this film chronicles how Marial balanced the weight of a new nation on his shoulders, showing mental strength and physical stamina as he stirred deep pride in people from South Sudan, a country rooted in the depredations of colonialism and working through a brutal civil war. Runner throws a much-needed spotlight on the power of sport as a unifying force and the importance of folding refugees into the community so that everyone can thrive."
Jules Boykoff, Professor of Politics and Government, Pacific University, Author, Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics
"Runner is a beautifully woven historical account of the devastation of war, the resilience of the human spirit, American generosity, and hope and despair. The documentary shows how Guor's run into the forest in South Sudan paved the way for a different kind of run: one that propelled him from high school athletics to the Olympics and a return home to mobilize future potential Olympians."
Martha Donkor, Professor of History and Women's and Gender Studies, West Chester University, Author, Sudanese Refugees in the United States: The Collateral Damage of Sudan's Civil War
"Runner shows how metaphor can help us make sense of the world's ongoing refugee crisis. In this powerful film, running is both desperation and triumph. I traveled to South Sudan eleven days before its independence, and witnessed the beautiful culture Guor honors. Guor's life journey is a testament to memory and discovery."
Harriet Millan, Associate Professor of English, Drexel University, Author, How Fast Can You Run: a Novel Based on the Life of Lost Boy of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch
"With nuanced storytelling and stunning visuals, Runner uses the singular life of Guor Marial to provide an intimate look into the cataclysmic events of South Sudan's recent past. Necessary viewing for students, scholars, and general audiences alike, the film is an important addition to the canon of Sudanese life histories."
Christopher Tounsel, Associate Professor of History, Director of African Studies, University of Washington, Author, Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan
"The attachment Guor Maker has with South Sudan - and how the country was not recognized officially for some time by the International Olympic Committee - provides distinct educational value for students to learn about the complexities of displacement and a sense of a homeland. This inspirational tale includes many twists and turns, while at the same time demonstrating the incredible resiliency of Guor."
Mitchell McSweeney, Assistant Professor, Sport Management, University of Minnesota
"Guor Marial is a human metaphor for getting through life's hardships by putting one foot in front of the other...This compassionate bio-doc is a really powerful story...The entire film is full of life lessons, including that sometimes participation is success, and living to see another day is victory."
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
"Inspirational...Here's a chance to watch a documentary that will get your heart racing."
Detroit Free Press
"The ultimate Hero's Journey...The collective warmth regarding the giant compassion that flows from this African man, and the respect regarding his complete lack of self-pity, is abundant."
Mark Jackson, The Epoch Times
"Riveting...It's not about winning Olympic medals. Long after Maker retires from the sport, his impact on the people he's inspired will be felt for generations."
Carla Hay, Culture Mix
"A powerful movie."
Peter Rainer, FilmWeek, NPR
"Focusing on the journey rather than finish, the documentary runs well as motivating inspiration for many walks-or, make that runs-of life."
Robin Holabird, KUNR Public Radio
"Runner pays homage to his incredible courage and his indomitable spirit, just when such a celebratory story of admirable discipline and unbelievable perseverance is welcome, even needed."
Diane Carson, KDHX Community Media
DVDs include public performance rights.
Language subtitle options are:
* English SDH captions * French* Indonesian * Lithuanian * Thai
+ Scene Selection
Awards and Festivals
Audience Award, Best of the Fest, Woods Hole Film Festival
Audience Award & Jury Award, Documentary Feature, Naples International Film Festival
Best Feature Film, Lone Star Film Festival
Best Documentary, Fairhope Film Festival
Best Human Spirit Film, Breckenridge Film Festival
Special Jury Commendation, Port Townsend Film Festival
Audience Award, Best New England Filmmaker, Newburyport Documentary Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
DocLands Documentary Film Festival
Heartland International Film Festival
Margaret Mead Film Festival
Migration and Refugees
War and Peace
|A Great Wonder
Documents the difficult transition of three of the "Lost Boys and Girls" of Sudan to life as immigrants in Seattle, WA.
A Home Called Nebraska
People in Nebraska wholeheartedly welcome refugees and show that the newcomers enrich their communities, their economies, and their lives.
Reveals the resilience, ingenuity and humor of Central American immigrants while exposing a global migration system that renders human beings invisible in life as well as death.
Traumatized Middle Eastern and African teen refugees are guided through a program of healing by devoted educators at a unique St. Louis public school for refugees only.
This Is Home
Sundance award-winner puts a human face on the global refugee crisis by providing an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in the US and struggling to find their footing.
Rain in a Dry Land
Two Somali Bantu families leave behind a legacy of slavery in Africa and find new homes in urban America.
... more Reviews
"Running, which had once saved his life, was now a way for him to adapt to life in his new homeland, make friends, and get a college education...Incredible."
Sarah Lorge Butler, Runner's World
"A must see film...A roller coaster of emotion...Highly recommended."
Christopher Kelsall, Athletics Illustrated
"Guor Mading Maker says he expects the film will resonate differently with each viewer. But to him, it's about three things: hope, unity, and inspiration."
Jonathan Gault, LetsRun.com
"Astronomically affecting and heartbreaking...Runner is about hope, inspiration, and the unification of a country...Maker is the kind of figure whose stories documentaries were made for telling. And Runner allows his life story to be felt just as much as heard."
Andrew Murray, The Upcoming
"This is still only the beginning of the story of the first Olympian from South Sudan: a beautifully human story that is about nothing less than what makes us go, what makes us try, and what makes us run."
Seth Troyer, Maddwolf
"A reminder of what people can be...It is also a story of acceptance and moving forward."
Nathaniel Muir, AIPT
"A story of privation and perseverance, personal pain, of tragedies and triumphs."
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
"Heartwarming...This film is emotional, empowering, and truly inspires us all to push through even in our toughest times."
Malika Harris, Irish Film Critic
"Fascinating...The best thing about Runner is Guor himself, a humble and sympathetic character whose life has more twists than the average thriller."
Sean Means, The Movie Cricket
"His story is anything but conventional...A jaw-dropping experience...Runner is an inspirational picture, but also an emotional one."
Jeff Mitchell, Phoenix Film Festival
"Runner is an inspirational true story about the power of running, war, family, friendship, and perseverance. Through Guor Marial's story, we learn about South Sudan's struggle for independence, decades of war, and a range of challenges facing refugees, but we also learn how sport can transform individuals, communities, even nations, and provide joy and hope."
Jennifer Erickson, Professor of Anthropology, Ball State University, Author, Race-ing Fargo: Refugees, Citizenship, and the Transformation of Small Cities