Africa United Movie Review
In rural Rwanda, Dudu (Ndayambaje) is a 13-year-old fast-talker who seems able to make just about anything happen. He convinces his pal Fabrice (Nsengiyumva) into trying out for a team of children taking part in the World Cup opening ceremony. But their journey is derailed when they board the wrong bus, and they end up as refugees travelling cross-country to Johannesburg. Along the way, they're joined by young Bea (Kintu), who wants to become a doctor; George (Dusenge), who's running from gun-toting thugs; and teen runaway Celeste (Silver), who works in the sex trade.
The film tackles several of the continent's biggest issues without ever wallowing in them - the generational ravages of Aids, child soldiers, educational challenges, international aid, class inequality. This is merely the fabric of everyday life for these children, as is their consuming obsession with football. Each of them has a telling skill to contribute (Dudu is an expert at making footballs from condoms and plastic bags), and all of them maintain optimism even in the face of unsettling violence.
The young cast fill the screen with personality and attitude, not to mention seemingly boundless physical energy. Each of the four travellers has a distinct back-story, and the script perhaps tries too hard to keep the tone jaunty and cute. This strains their abilities as actors (Dusenge and Silver give the strongest performances), although their raw authenticity makes up for that. And the positive mindset of these characters is both revealing and inspiring.
Director Gardner-Paterson keeps the tone light even while exploring some very dark subjects, while Dudu's epic storytelling lets her insert some spirited and colourful animation. Of course there's a lot of spectacular scenery along the way as well. But it's the humanity of the film that lingers in the memory: the way these children just want to live a full life, even if it means risking everything on a daring adventure.