Africa United-A Letter of Love: A Sensational New Film about a Gang of Five African Children Who Set out to Walk Thousands of Miles to the World Cup Venues of South Africa Not Only Projects a Different Version of Africa but Has It Has Kick-Started the Birth of a Film Industry in Rwanda. Alexa Dalby Has the Details

By Dalby, Alexa | African Business, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Africa United-A Letter of Love: A Sensational New Film about a Gang of Five African Children Who Set out to Walk Thousands of Miles to the World Cup Venues of South Africa Not Only Projects a Different Version of Africa but Has It Has Kick-Started the Birth of a Film Industry in Rwanda. Alexa Dalby Has the Details


Dalby, Alexa, African Business


The film Africa United premiered in Canada at the Toronto Film Festival and in the UK at the BFI London Film Festival to great acclaim, and its Rwandan VIP premiere in November was followed by a free screening for more than 8,000 people in Kigali's Amahoro National Stadium.

The adventures of five children who refuse to believe they cannot achieve their goal, no matter how impossible adults think it is--that is just the sort of story line that you would expect to find in a family movie, you might think. But the production of the mainstream movie Africa United became the inspiration for another ambitious achievement--the setting up of a permanent body, the Rwandan Film Commission, to promote filmmaking in the country that inspired the film's story.

Garlanded with comparisons to the international award-winning Slumdog Millionaire--shot in Mumbai, India--Africa United is a feel-good film that does not shy away from difficult issues, though these are presented in a way that makes them acceptable to young audiences. It makes you laugh and cry as its central characters, who embody different issues facing African children, trek 3,000 miles by truck, boat and foot, to reach South Africa for the junior football trials of the Fifa World Cup, and its closing scenes unroll amid the excitement of Soweto's Soccer City Stadium.

Starting their journey from Kigali, Rwanda, are 15-year-old Fabrice (played by UK-based Rwandan emigre Roger Nsengiyumva), the child of middle-class parents who want him to be a doctor, whose football talent sparks their naive quest; precocious fast-talking 12-year-old Dudu (Eriya Ndayambaje, a Twa from the Rwandan/Ugandan border), Fabrice's self-appointed 'business manager' and the film's narrator; and his studious sister Beatrice (Ugandan Sanyu Joanita Kintu). Dudu and Beatrice are street children and orphans, with lives affected by HIV/Aids.

After taking the wrong bus and ending up in DR Congo, they decide to make their own way to South Africa. They cross seven countries and are joined in the dangers they face by Foreman George, an escaped child soldier (played by Yves Dusenge, a Rwandan living in Uganda), and Celeste (played by Sherrie Silver, daughter of Rwandan emigre parents living in London), a young bargirl and un-willing prostitute. The film's emphasis is on overcoming obstacles by supporting each other by working together. As Dudu says, "Africa doesn't need armies, it needs teams."

Film school in Rwanda

The idea originated with producer Eric Kabera, known as Rwanda's 'Mr Cinema'. He told me: "This is a story of an aspiring continent through the eyes of its children. We have managed to bring to the world a piece of work that has captured the imagination of anyone who has not yet come to a place such as Rwanda, Burundi or anywhere on the continent. Africa United makes you go to those places and wish for the best for a continent that has been terribly portrayed in the media. This is a love letter from Africa to you."

Kabera started as a journalist and trained in the media in the UK and US. "My stepping stone into the world of motion pictures was the making of 100 Days [about the genocide], when I teamed up with British-based filmmaker and cameraman Nick Hughes," he recounts. "After touring the film around the world, in Africa, Asia, America and Europe, I really came to realise the power of film and how much this is needed, especially in the developing world, such as Africa and Rwanda. I would see documentaries and films about Rwanda and none of my citizens would ever get the time to watch them or even aspire to be involved into the field of filmmaking."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Those experiences inspired him to create the Rwanda Cinema Centre, of which he is the chief executive, an established and recognised film school based in Rwanda. It has received the acclaim of award-winning filmmakers from Hollywood, Europe, Africa and Asia, who come to teach master classes to students and aspiring filmmakers. …

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Africa United-A Letter of Love: A Sensational New Film about a Gang of Five African Children Who Set out to Walk Thousands of Miles to the World Cup Venues of South Africa Not Only Projects a Different Version of Africa but Has It Has Kick-Started the Birth of a Film Industry in Rwanda. Alexa Dalby Has the Details
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