Monday 27 March 2017

Movies: Africa United * * *

(12A, General release)

Roger Nsengiyumva has dreams of playing in the World Cup
Roger Nsengiyumva has dreams of playing in the World Cup

Paul Whitington

Although it does lay it on a bit thick at times, Africa United is the kind of effervescently feelgood film that only the most jaded of cynics could fail to be moved by.

Set in Rwanda on the eve of the South Africa 2010 World Cup, it stars Eriya Ndayambaje as a wheeling and dealing teenage street urchin called Dudu. His best friend Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva) has a talent for football, and one day when a passing scout spots them playing, he tells Fabrice he might be good enough to join a team of young exhibition players who will take part in the World Cup's opening ceremony.

He tells them to come to a trial the next day in Kigali, but Fabrice, Dudu and his little sister Beatrice board the wrong bus and end up in neighbouring Burundi instead. Fabrice is in big trouble with his wealthy parents for having run off to the trials in the first place, but Dudu and Beatrice are orphans, and Dudu persuades his sister and best friend that they should strike out for South Africa and the World Cup anyway.

Along the way they meet a beautiful young girl who's been sexually exploited, as well as a former child soldier. And together they forge a kind of impromptu family that gives them all the courage to dream of better things.

Directed by Debs Gardner-Paterson, Africa United is on one level a rather pat summary of the continent's various challenges, but it's made moving and enjoyable by the performances of a talented group of young actors.

Irish Independent

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