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Africa United billed as the new Slumdog

A new film shining a new light on the real Africa is tipped to match the success of Slumdog Millionaire.

Directed by Debs Gardner-Paterson Africa United, stars five children aged 11 to 15 who have never acted before; a writer producing his first script and a director making her first feature film.

Already it has already been compared favourably with Slumdog Millionaire, the 2008 Danny Boyle hit about a boy from a Mumbai shanty town.

The film, out later this month, opens in Rwanda, but unlike 100 Days, Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs and most films about Rwanda, it isn’t about the 1994 genocide, when 800,000 people were killed. Instead, it tells the story of three Rwandan children who travel across seven African countries to be at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. Along the way they face up to issues such as Aids and child prostitution.

Fabrice is a middle-class 15-year-old football prodigy, his 'manager’, Dudu, is a 13-year-old Aids orphan who lives with his sister, Beatrice in a shack. Using a World Cup wallchart, as a map the children set off, adding new members to their dream team along the way: Foreman George, an ex-child soldier, and Celeste, a child prostitute.

The idea came from Rwandan film maker Eric Kabera, as a push to change his country’s 'sad’ image - an image he admits he is partly responsible for, having made 100 Days, the first genocide film.

"There's a whole side to Africa that is just not being seen,” said director Debs Gardner-Paterson. “It's such a trick to pull off, but what we hoped was to make a family film that doesn't avoid that side of things,” she told The Observer newspaper. “We want to show kids here that there are kids like you in other situations who are incredible human beings. There are so many good stories and so many great people, entrepreneurial, clever, joyful. There is so much ingenuity and creativity, it's outrageous.

"My cousin, who is 14, read the script and said 'You've got it wrong, this kid has a mobile phone, you don't get that in Africa', and I was like, yes you do, and that's the point. There's a whole side of Africa that you just don't see."

Film giants, Pathé put up half of the film’s £4 million budget. BBC Films and the UK Film Council put in £500,000 each. Africa United also got £500,000 from Rwanda’s ministry of culture and sport; and it is the first formal British/Rwandan co-production. Like Slumdog, the makers are very conscious of the issues of working in a developing country. Pathé is donating a quarter of the film's profit to Comic Relief.

Africa United goes on general release on 22 October.

Hayley attribution