Film Review – Africa United

Africa United
Three Rwandan children set off to the country’s capital, Kigali to audition for the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup. The children, football prodigy Fabrice, his best friend and manager Dudu and Dudu’s little sister Beatrice sneak onto a bus… the wrong bus.

Instead of arriving in Kigali, they end up in the Congo with no papers, money, or a believable story. Africa United tells the tale of how they manage to escape the refugee camp they’re put in, and their decision to travel to Johannesburg for the opening ceremony, armed only with a World Cup map of Africa.

Africa United is a proper children’s film in that it patronises neither its subject matter nor its audience. Funny, engaging and thought provoking, director Debs Gardner-Patterson and writer Rhidian Brook have ensured this is not a tale of “oh aren’t things horrible for children in Africa” but more “bloody hell these kids are awesome and indefatigable”…

The film doesn’t shy away from the issues facing the chldren, Dudu and Beatrice are orphans, their parents dead from HIV, another child, Foreman George is a former child soldier, yet another, Celeste is a sex-worker at just 15. However, nor does it act as polemic, the children are very matter of fact, these are their lives and they endure with wit, determination and the support of each other. The film also shows and recognises that not all children are in dire straits, Fabrice, the footballer is middle class, with a nice house and a mobile phone. What links him with his best friend Dudu is their love of football.

While football permeates the film, in Fabrice’s talent, in the township footballs that Dudu makes along the journey, in the conversations between the boys, it’s really a MacGuffin, because the story is more a road movie focussing on the children and their absolute self-belief. Dudu, played by Eriya Ndayambaje is the touchstone of the film. Cheeky, confident, determined, it’s a huge role for the young actor, but he carries it with aplomb. As the manager of his rag tag group of friends, he never falters from the aim to get Fabrice to the World Cup, even when he realises that ultimately it is more about the journey, than the destination.

One of Dudu’s talents is the ability to spin a great yarn, and through the film are several animated sequences that illustrate the story he tells to his friends to get them through the journey.

castAll the young leads show great presence and talent onscreen. Roger Nsengiyumva, himself a Rwanda refugee now living in Norwich, not only pulls off the footballing brilliance of Fabrice, but also gives a great performance as a boy whose life is out of step with the rest of his friends. Yves Dusenge, who plays Foreman George, the former child soldier, does well with the role of the boy who’s done terrible things. While on set he was able to talk with Emmanuel Jal, a former boy soldier from Sudan, who plays Tulu, an adult who wants to bring Foreman back to war. (Jal worked on the War Child album). Celeste, played by Sherrie Silver, is written and played particularly well, avoiding any prurience regarding her situation. Finally Sanyu Joanita Kintu, as studious Beatrice, gives a brilliantly understated performance as the quietest, but possibly smartest child of the group.

The film is certificated 12A, and it is worthwhile mentioning that condoms, HIV, sex, and prostitution are all discussed openly. Which meant some interesting conversations with Junior Miss Moviegrrl (nearly 10) after we left the cinema. Hopefully this won’t put people off taking their children to see it, because it’s a really funny film with a bittersweet ending that will stay with you long after it’s finished.

Africa United opens on October 22nd in the UK and 25% of the film’s profits will go to Comic Relief.

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on September 14, 2010.

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