The opening scene in Africa United, in which football crazy Rwandan AIDS orphan Dudu shows us how to make a football from a condom (‘you can use any kind – I get mine from the UN’), sets the tone for the film: despite touching on some serious issues, it is foremost one of warmth, fun and football. When Dudu’s talented friend Fabrice misses out on the opportunity to audition for the opening ceremony of the World Cup, the two friends bring Dudu’s little sister Beatrice with them to head straight to Soccer City for the big day. Following them on their journey through Africa, we see them make new friends (former child soldier Foreman George and exploited bar worker Celeste) as well as escape from a gang of thugs chasing them for the money Celeste took from her greedy employer.
It is refreshing to see a film for children set in Africa, using African actors. While the film touches on a number of what is often considered ‘African’ issues, it is still mostly an adventure film, showing the friendship of a group of children on an exciting journey, tackling both local and universal problems. Fabrice throwing his mobile phone in lake Tanganyika to free himself of his overprotective mother is one scene which should evoke sympathy from any UK school child who has ever stayed out a bit too late. The film will no doubt serve as a starting point for a discussion on some serious issues, such as HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, poverty and prostitution. While these are important and worthy of awareness, I hope that the film can also bring awareness of something else: that Rwanda (and Africa) is also a place where children just like the ones over here in the UK form warm friendships and dream of adventure and football.
The three SOS Children’s Villages in Kigali, Byumba and Gikongoro are full of children like Dudu and Beatrice: children who have nobody to look after them. If anyone had taken Dudu to an SOS Children’s Village his tragic faith in the closing scenes of Africa United could perhaps have been avoided. He would have been invited to live in one of the family houses in the Children’s Village, together with his sister as we never separate biological siblings. In the Children’s Village he would have received the loving care and attention of an SOS mother as well as the rest of the community. That way, Dudu would perhaps have been able to continue to play football for a bit longer.
If you're a secondary school teacher, we have produced some assembly resources about the film for you to use.