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Augsburg graduate lands key role in upcoming Reese Witherspoon film

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An Augsburg College grad is having a memorable spring filming a role for an upcoming Reese Witherspoon movie, the Pioneer Press reports.

Kuoth Wiel -- a native of Sudan who grew up in Faribault -- recently wrapped up her degree in social psychology online while working on a key role in "The Good Lie."

Wiel learned of film in a Facebook message in January and submitted a video audition before a meeting with casting agents. After meeting director Philippe Falardeau, she was flown to Atlanta where she learned that she got the part.

In an interview with Pioneer Press film critic Chris Hewitt, Wiel said the film is a story about the "lost" youth of Sudan. She plays a 19-year-old girl named Abital in the film, a "lost girl" among a group of "lost boys" who were orphaned or displaced during the Sudanese Civil War.

The story resonates with Wiel because her brother was a "lost boy" in real life. She left Africa with her family at age 8, and her family settled in Minnesota in 1998.

Wiel told Hewitt that she can remember her family traveling back and forth between Sudan and Ethiopia.

"I think I was 3 and war broke out and I lost my father, who was a medic. I can still remember that," she told Hewitt.

Wiel says Witherspoon -- who plays an outspoken woman who mentors the lost boys -- was very helpful on the set in Atlanta, and guided her when the student decided to finish her Augsburg degree online.

"When I was contemplating having to finish school online, she was the one who told me, 'The movie will last forever. Whatever decision you make, think about that. People who don't even know you will remember you for this movie,' " Wiel told Hewitt.

Wiel is set to return to Africa next week to shoot a week of scenes in South Africa. The film is scheduled to come out in the thick of movie awards season in December.

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