Review by Jack Foley
DEBS Gardner-Paterson’s Africa United is an ambitious but not entirely successful feelgood movie that attempts to mix family friendly values with hard hitting social issues.
It’s been favourably compared to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire in some quarters, which is also a blessing and a curse.
The film follows Rwandan youngsters Dudu (Eriya Ndayambaje) and Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva), two friends from different backgrounds who unite in a common goal: to get Fabrice to football trials in South Africa aimed at getting him to appear at the opening ceremony of the World Cup.
Their journey subsequently takes them through seven countries and assorted dangers, during which they build an unlikely team of their own, including a friend who dreams of becoming a doctor (Sanyu Joanita Kintu), a former child soldier (Yves Dusenge) and a sex trade worker (Sherrie Silver).
Gardner-Paterson’s movie deserves credit for wanting to show a different side to Africa that celebrates the spirit of it nation as much as the beauty of it’s landscapes. But it does so without losing sight of it’s struggles and dangers.
However, her attempts to blend the the two sometimes come unstuck with issues of Aids, sex traffiking and child soldiers sometimes given too much of a sugar coating, even when seen through the eyes of the young. There’s a naivety about it that sometimes feels like it’s pandering more to mainstream sensibilities and the need for a 12A certificate – something that Boyle’s Slumdog crucially did not.
That said, Africa United does approach the feelgood value of Boyle’s movie by virtue of it’s inspirational story and the spirited performances of it’s young and largely untried cast.
Their camaraderie is genuine and there is a lot of warmth in their portrayals, especially from the likes of Sherrie Silver and Yves Dusenge who get to handle some of the weightier material (Dusenge, in particular, wears the haunted, exhausted look of a child soldier well).
Nsengiyumva and Ndayambaje also make believable best friends whose loyalty is tested throughout their ups and downs and who earn both your cheers and tears come the bittersweet conclusion.
So, for all of it’s flaws, Africa United remains a good movie and one that boasts genuine heart.
Running time: 88mins
UK DVD Release: February 28, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Debs Gardner-Paterson interview
- Roger Nsengiyumva and co-stars interview
- Africa United Movie Photo Gallery
- Africa United Photocall Gallery
- Africa United Premiere Photo Gallery