The 2010 World Cup is already a fading memory but the event’s afterglow is almost sufficient to cast a spell over the simplistic, feel good road movie Africa United. The film’s mood is eternally sunny, the approach is hectic and bustling and there is no crisis so grave that it cannot be solved by the flick of a screenwriter’s contrivance. Pitched somewhere between a Children’s Film Foundation production of the 1970s and an Alexander McCall Smith novel, it works best as a film for children and safe family viewing.
Eriya Ndayambaje is a bundle of joy as Dudu, a wily, wheeler-dealer in Rwanda who convinces middle-class pal Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva) to follow his dream of playing at the World Cup opening ceremony in South Africa. Accompanied by Dudu’s studious sister the trio of children embark on an epic, 5000km journey across the continent by bus, truck, cargo hold and foot. Along the way, they gather their own teammates in boy soldier Foreman George (Yves Dusenge) and sex worker Celeste (Sherrie Silver).
Africa United touches lightly on a host of problems from child soldiers to sex trafficking, HIV and AIDS lending some grit to a soft-centred saga that seems designed to counteract more typical tales of suffering and recrimination that define our perceptions of Africa. Director Debs Gardner-Paterson seems content to accentuate the positive, peppering the narrative with brightly coloured stop-motion animation sequences and tugging shamelessly at the heartstrings. Her approach is not exactly subtle but it does prove effective.
General release, Fri 22 Oct.