Out of the Ashes, onto the snow | VailDaily.com

Out of the Ashes, onto the snow

Prince and Grace stand on either side of their snowboarding instructor in Vail on Sunday, April 10. The Chapman University freshmen students are citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and saw snow for the first time while in Vail.
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VAIL — Culture shock comes in many different forms. For the subjects of the documentary “Out of the Ashes,” known simply as Grace and Prince, culture shock took the form of a snowflake on Vail Mountain.

“It was like these bright, burning white things falling from the skies,” said Prince. “Seeing it, it’s like you see colors in the wind. Just amazing.”

“Out of the Ashes” made its world premiere at the Vail Film Festival last week. The movie is about Prince and Grace’s struggle to journey from the streets of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa to Chapman University in California, where they are currently freshmen students. As part of the premiere, the boys got to join director Susan Saltz in Vail and even snowboard a little.

“It was really good,” Prince said. “And when I say good, I mean fun.”


Saltz, who has been tracking the boys for the better part of their journey, said the concept of an entire town dedicated to fun was hard for the boys to grasp.

“When you’re coming from a country where there’s famine, and you see this massive, incredible infrastructure devoted to just pure fun, it’s gotta blow you away a little bit, in ways that are complicated,” she said.

In the film, we learn the incredible story of how the boys made it to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo with the help of the organization Africa New Day, and how they plan to return with a goal to help their country.

While the premiere was a culture shock in itself, the film explored that same fish-out-of-water concept. The old phrase parents tell their children here, “Don’t throw your food away, there are starving children in Africa,” was a real thought in the boys’ minds when they arrived in the U.S.

In the film, Prince said he was shocked when he first saw children in America taking a few bites of food and throwing the rest away.

“I was so sad,” he said. “Because there are many persons who, at this time, are dying because of famine.”

They remember the days of clean water being a major challenge in life.

“I remember to get water I had to take a Jerry can and go on foot to the lake,” Grace said.


The film also deals with a problem the boys no doubt encountered in Vail — how to take it all in and still find time for what brought them here in the first place — their education.

“It’s nice when they call you to go watch a movie, to celebrate a birthday, to go meet a friend or do something, it’s really nice, but it usually came when you have something to do,” Grace said in “Out of the Ashes.”

In the course of a weekend in Vail, they saw that challenge on another level, and in a way many locals here can relate to — how to find time for the fun of snowboarding while balancing other, more important tasks.

“They had to skip the second showing on Sunday to get back to school,” Saltz said.

Upon leaving Vail, Prince was already thinking of ways to strike a balance between work and play.

“I’m going to join a club of snowboarding at my school,” he said. “First I will find a friend to help me catch up, and then I will try to be better at it.”

Their end goal, however, remains unchanged.

“I have a dream that one day, the Democratic Republic of Congo will rise up and return to his true destiny,” Prince said in the film. “I believe deeply that things will be different in this rich country, whose population is poor and unhappy, in which children are in the streets, women and girls are raped and small children are forced into the army instead of going to school.”

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