Africa United (2010)
ultimately upholds the values of white individualism...
9 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Five youngsters travel across the African continent to reach the opening games of the world cup. Starting in Kigali, Rwanda, talented teenage footballer Fabrice catches the eye of a talent scout who invites him to play at the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup. His appointed 'manager' Dudu, played by the hyper Eriya Ndayambaje , hustles him to the nearest bus station and on to the wrong bus. Towing his best friend Beatrice along the three friends decide to walk to the games. If the premise is unbelievable, bear in mind this is a children's / family film and it seems churlish to criticise it too harshly. It throws in a certain amount of realism through entirely location shooting with nice shots of the semi urban landscape of Kigali and a motor park. However this is an Africa which appears slightly too clean for someone whose been there. Where are the piles of plastic rubbish blocking up the open drains? Eriya Ddayanbaje's lead performance of Dudu does begin to grate after a while but works for the target audience. The group of teenagers behind me were giggling away constantly although I felt at times I was watching a safer sex education film, the condom message is so overstated. While well meaning it does continue the idea that everyone in Africa has HIV. This is a serious issue and while HIV affects the lives of many Africans, most people on the continent don't have HIV. Along the journey Dudu and Fabrice meet Foreman George, a former child soldier, a smouldering and moody performance from Yves Dusenge somewhat wasted on this film. No background is furnished, we're simply given this character, taken for granted he's a traumatised kid. No context is given as to how the child soldier phenomenon emerges and its easy for a audience of teenagers to go away from this film imagining that Africa consists of AIDS orphans, child soldiers or teenage sex workers. Without diminishing any of these problems it needs to be remembered the child soldier phenomenon emerged from particular areas of Africa, it isn't and hasn't been continent wide. The conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), largely ignored by the rest of the world, is fuelled by the demand for minerals and the interplay between conflict, child soldiers and global neo liberal capitalism is never alluded to in this film. Maybe thats too much to expect of a children's film but it's frustrating for an audience to bring in the child soldier thing and then not expand it. A similar reluctance takes place to expand the character of Celeste, who when we meet her is a sex worker at a bar on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. This lake borders DRC, again there isn't any context given about the situation here, the complex interplay of colonial histories, exploitation of mineral wealth fuelling conflicts, the ongoing abuses of women such as rape used as a method of control and coercion and so on. Maybe this is too much to ask of a children's film but don't just allude to an issue, give it some proper background. While the film rams home a message that the young people are a team, they all stick together, collaborating for a shared purpose, it ultimately upholds the notion of individualism. Fabrice gets to the World Cup Opening ceremony. His friends conveniently go their own ways. In place of collaborative interdependence, Africa United substitutes neo liberalism, embodied in the spectacle of the world cup, to offer up a facsimile of togetherness. The final shots emphasise Fabrice, close up, walking into the stadium. No mention here of the street traders swept away for the building of the stadium, the homes demolished, the squatters evicted...
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