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Africa United


Stars: Roger Nsengiyumva, Eriya Ndayambaje, Yves Dusenge, Sherrie Silver, Sanyu Joanna Kintu

Director: Debs Gardner-Paterson

I really wish I could wholeheartedly join in the endemic cheering for this ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ wannabe’. Yes, it is certainly heartwarming (there were times when I thought my shirt would spontaneously combust) and, yes, its heart is on its sleeve as it tugs at all available heartstrings with its ‘inspiring’ saga of loveable characters winning through against the odds. So why then did I find the film a tad too patronising of it characters for my liking?

I’ve thought about that long and hard and finally concluded that, for me, at any rate, I really did feel writer Rhidian Brook and Debs Gardner-Paterson were patronising their characters without, I’m sure, intending to. My reservation is most certainly not a racist one – the characters and their motivation are credible and often moving and my reaction may simply be the result of having grown up in Africa so that perhaps I simply suffer from having an inherent immunity to ‘cute’ heartstring tugging tales like this which appear to latch on to my fellow Africans for the sake of a story.

That suger sweet story has three Rwandan youngsters – footballer Nsengiyumva, his fast-talking ‘manager’ Ndayambaje and his sister Kintu – setting out for Johannesburg for the opening ceremony of the 2010. They take the wrong bus and, realising they have missed the opening ceremony, embark on a cross-continental odyssey that takes them to the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa and involves them with an escapee from a child army and a young girl trapped in prostitution.

Their journey is packed with incident, location cinematography adds impact and only a truly Dickensian depressive could be failed to react positively to the film’s message. And I have to admit it certainly succeeds in its aims and deserves its popularity but sadly (for me, at any rate) it lacks the inherent emotional truth of ‘Slumdog Millionaire”.

If I’m honest, Gardner-Paterson and Brook lost me at the start when Ndyambaje tells us his name ‘Dudu’ means ‘bug’. While true, ‘bug’ is American. My guess is they still call them insects in East and Central Africa.

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers/Pathe. Colour by deluxe.
88 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 21 Oct 2010