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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Film - Africa United - directed by Debs Gardner-Paterson

Star rating – 6/10

Being billed as this year’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ probably does this film no real favours. But as a feelgood movie which also tries to deal with some hard hitting social issues, it is hard not to like it. It is the story of three kids from Rwanda whose dream it is to get to the World Cup opening ceremony in South Africa so that one of their number, Fabrice, can represent his country there.

The child actors in the piece are extremely good, with star billing going to Eriya Ndayambaje as Dudu, the pint sized manager of his budding football prodigy friend. So they run away with Dudu’s sister Bea to go to the trials in Kigali, only to discover they have taken to wrong bus and ended up in the Congo. And so their 3,000 mile adventure to reach South Africa begins. It is not all believable, by any stretch of a vivid imagination, but you want to go along for the ride anyway.

It does not shy away from some of the more hard hitting themes from the countries they cross, such as HIV/AIDS; children used in the sex trade; and child soldiers. There are two particularly affecting performances from Sherry Silver as the girl escaping prostitution, and from Yves Dusenge as the former boy soldier trying to escape his shady past, and feeling racked with guilt at some of the things he has done.

This synergy of serious social issues with the more lighthearted football story does not entirely work. And I didn’t particularly like the animated sequences when Dudu told his stories to the group to entertain and keep their spirits up. But overall I did enjoy the film, and particularly the funny and wise before his years Dudu. So not another ‘Slumdog’ but a good and enjoyable effort all the same.

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