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Africa United - Roger Nsengiyumva and co-stars interview

Africa United

Interview by Rob Carnevale

THE young cast of Africa United (pictured, from left, Sherrie Silver, Sanyu Joanita Kintu and actors Roger Nsengiyumva, Eriya Ndayambaje and Yves Dusenge) talk about some of the challenges of making the film, getting to grips with life on a film set and balancing the movie’s more grown-up themes with family friendly values. They were talking at a press conference held during the 54th BFI London Film Festival.

Q. Which scenes were the most fun to film and which were the most challenging?
Eriya Ndayambaje (Dudu): My best part in the movie was when I’m in the hospital. I’m sick but these guys are making me even sicker! I am the manager, but Fabrice wanted to kick me off. But then I tell him it’s not about us, it’s not about him, it’s all about us – Africa United! I found it hard to act being sick, because I wasn’t really sick.

Sherrie Silver (Celeste): My favourite part to act was when we were sitting on the back of the truck and Dudu had just fainted, and we had to carry him on. The truck was driving quite fast and we had to keep doing that part over and over again. But it was really exciting because of all the bumpy roads and the jokes on the way. The hardest part, for me, was when I was working in the bar because I had to act like I liked my job, so that I wouldn’t get fired, but at the same time I had to act like I didn’t like my job. So, I had to put both of those feelings across to the viewer, and at the same time try and carry bottles without tipping them over.

Yves Dusenge (Foreman George): Every day we were exciting about the new day on the set. So, I think all parts were very good. My favourite part was the fighting scene. I like action movies, so taking part in an action scene was good.

Sanyu Joanita Kintu (Beatrice): The part I enjoyed being involved in was when we were singing in the truck and we had a lot of fun. The hardest part for me to act was when I was saying goodbye to all of them and they were leaving me to fulfil my dream as a doctor.

Roger Nsengiyumva (Fabrice): I think every day was a blessing really. But I think one of the hardest, I would say, was when we had to walk across the railway and I had to walk across the stony bit and it was 12 noon or 1pm and it was really hot. I was barefoot and wardrobe tried to pull cellotape around my feet! So, that was quite hard. Another hard one was at the beginning of the film where I have to do keepy-ups – that took all day. But every day was wonderful, especially with these guys and Debs… everyone was really supportive and I had a really great time.

Q. Roger, I gather you received a phone call from Debs on Boxing Day saying that she was coming to see you. What did you think when you got that call?
Roger Nsengiyuma: I was only really excited when I got the phone call to go to South Africa. When I got the phone call for the audition, I think I just went in my room and carried on doing what I was doing. But I was insanely excited when I got the phone call with the go-ahead to go to South Africa. Debs had actually shown me pictures on my first audition of Sherrie, Eriya and Sanyu and I really wanted to meet those guys. So, I just acted how they wanted Fabrice to be in the hope that I’d meet these guys. And it worked. I ended up having a great experience.

Africa United

Q. Roger, how is the football career going and who is your football hero?
Roger Nsengiyumva: Football career is on hold currently [laughs]. I tried out for Norwich City a few years back, so it wasn’t really recently. My favourite player at the moment is probably Steven Gerard because I’m a big supporter of Liverpool and I was really happy when wardrobe told us all what we were going to wear and then the head of wardrobe came with a Liverpool shirt for me. I was like: “Yeah, good choice!”

Q. So, would you now prefer to be an actor rather than a footballer?
Roger Nsengiyumva: I had a great time on set and filming it so another opportunity would be brilliant. I can’t see myself being a footballer now.

Q. Sherrie, how familiar were you with some of the issues you face?
Sherrie Silver: I’m quite familiar with poverty because my mum runs a charity called War Rebuilders. So, we basically go out into Rwanda and try to rebuild broken lives and try to work with and inspire children. So, I’m kind of used to the poverty side of it. However, the sex worker side of it… I’ve never met one of those people. But Debs helped me to get into character.

Q. What was the thing that surprised you most about making the film?
Eriya Ndayambaje: The big cameras! I’ve never been in front of such big cameras before. I’ve only been on stage. The other thing is that you get to make new friends and meet new people. I didn’t like doing a lot of takes or getting the script in our heads [laughs].

Sanyu Joanita Kintu: For me, it was the cameras and so many takes. I thought there would only be two people on set, but there were 13 or more.

Roger Nsengiyumva: Like Sanyu has said, I was quite surprised when I got on set and there were trailers, trucks and hundreds of people all just doing different stuff. In the middle of it all, Debs was running around, twiddling her hair and thinking of what to do next. I was just amazed at how everyone was initially really nice to all of us. There was a great deal of fun that we had on set and the people were amazing. I thought film sets would be quite like: “You stick to your section and we’ll stick to ours.” But it was just like a big family and really good fun. I really enjoyed it.

Yves Dusenge: Everything was a surprise – cameras, the way things were done. Everything!!

Sherrie Silver: I was surprised because having not filmed anything before, I imagined that we’d film some of the things in Africa, or Rwanda or Burundi, but then we’d do most of it in a studio. But then I realised that we actually had to go to the different places and that these places were real, so it was a good opportunity to go places I’d never been. So, where you see it is where it actually was.

Read our review of Africa United

Read our interview with director Debs Gardner-Paterson