South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup this year, but the pride and euphoria surged all the way up the continent. All Africans, especially young ones, embraced the spirit of the game with every new success in the stadiums. Filmmakers leapt at the occasion to showcase dozens of inspiring stories from a continent often beset by bad news. This year’s Festival sees a small collection of uplifting films set in contemporary Africa, but only one grants the World Cup a central role.
It begins in Rwanda. Dudu (Eriya Ndayambaje) is a boy with boundless energy and a beaming smile. Resourceful in the way of kids who’ve always had to make do, he has a dazzling knack for finding fun in any situation. Introduced in his slum neighbourhood, Dudu demonstrates how to make a soccer ball from an inflated condom, some twine and a stray plastic bag. His playmates on the field include the middle-class Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva), who excels at the game, although his mother would prefer he devote more time to his studies.
But these kids are soccer mad and in the year when the World Cup seems so close, they can’t resist trying to get near the action and see all the excitement for themselves. They set out (by foot!) to travel from Rwanda to South Africa. The journey is a staggering five-thousand-odd kilometres.
Africa United is a joyous road movie through places where there aren’t always roads. Director Debs Gardner-Paterson gives these kids lots of adventures along the way, both light-hearted and serious. It turns out that, for all his jokes, Dudu is living with a secret that may force the boy to confront his mortality all too soon. But as they cross border after border on the way to South Africa, the kids gather new friends who can help them face all the obstacles in their collective path. –TIFF
Debs Gardner-Paterson was born in Yorkshire and educated in Africa and India before studying for a degree, and gaining a reputation as a theatre director, at Cambridge University. Her first job after graduation was anchoring Total Football – about the English Premiership – on Singapore TV.
On returning to England, Gardner-Paterson began to forge ahead with her film career, working for the UK Film Council and assisting casting director Jeremy Zimmermann. Her career and her life was threatened by a serious car accident in 2003. During her recovery, she was told she may never be able to walk or speak in the same way again.
In 2007 she directed the award-winning We Are All Rwandans, a short film shot in location and based on true events surrounding the Rwandan genocide. It bought her to the attention of the African producers of Africa United, an empowering, joyous film about the ability of children to overcome all obstacles, however threatening they may appear. —littlewhitelies… read more