My friend, Grace Rwaramba, asked me to attend a movie screening of Africa United. Being from Rwanda, Grace is passionate and incredibly proud about her country and culture, and wanted to support this film. Having no expectations, I went to attend the screening hosted by one of the producers, Eric Kabera, at a small theater at the Academy of Motion Pictures.
What a delight this movie turned out to be! It's the story of three children who take a road trip to South Africa after ending up in Congo, instead of Kigali, for a soccer audition for the 2010 World Cup. Eleven-year-old orphan "Dudu" -- who is cunning, street smart and can create a soccer ball out of condoms while educating children on their importance -- serves as a "manager" for his middle-class friend, Fabrice, who is a soccer prodigy. The cast of characters also includes Dudu's sister, Beatrice, an aspiring doctor; a young prostitute, Celeste; and Foreman George, a teenager who has faced the brutality of a war-torn country. Each one's story has disappointment, hope and redemption weaved together.
The movie addresses some of the big issues of Africa today -- from the genocides in Rwanda to war, HIV/AIDS testing, prostitution, the plight of orphans and education -- but creates a balance that shows the humanity, hope and adventure of children no matter what their background.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Cinema Paradiso, an Italian film about a boy from a small town who loves the movies. Africa United made me smile in a similar way after watching it -- it's whimsical, hopeful and a celebration of the journey. It's a film made by producers who find it difficult to escape the horrors of the recent history of their country, Rwanda, but decided to put out a different, hopeful message. It also reaffirmed my desire to visit east and central Africa with my daughters -- the color and incredible scenery of the continent is enticing.
I asked Eric how people could see the film, and he pointed out that they are in need of a U.S. distributor. In the meantime, I'd recommend you visit the Africa United website or Facebook fan page, and see if you can access a DVD or screening at a film festival. My fingers are crossed that more people will have a chance to see it.
Mallika Chopra is the founder of Intent.com, a site focused on personal, social and global wellness.
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