If you’re in the UK you may have seen this DVD on the shelf of your local store over the last week or so but I’ve held off on this review until now for reasons that will hopefully become obvious further down.
Africa United came out last year and our original HeyUGuys review by Lisa Giles-Keddie said “it’s refreshing to watch a film that champions the power of positive thought, fuelling the story from beginning to end. It is a vibrant and positively charming journey that captures the true, fighting spirit of Africa, it is an amazing movie.”. I’m certainly not going to disagree with Lisa as I love the film with its colourful characters and places plus the inspiring story but also because of the fact that it’s a film that’s not afraid to look at the uncomfortable issues that exist in the countries that feature in the film. You can read her full review by following the link above but if it’s the DVD contents you’re interested in then read on.
The film follows the adventures and misadventures of three Rwandan children as they walk, blag and bungle their way to the World Cup in South Africa, picking up a couple of friends along the way. On their journey this ragamuffin team touches on the issues of education, HIV, Aids, child soldiers and child prostitution, but does so with the eyes of kids trying to make the best of the cards that the world seems to have dealt them.
The DVD is pretty much as you’d expect with the movie in all its glory plus the enjoyable, if obligatory, option of watching it with the commentary by director Debs Gardner-Paterson and writer Rhidian Brook, who provide a great deal of insight and anecdote around the casting, locations, characters and making of the film for those dedicated enough to sit through having the movie dissected in that way.
Moving on to the special features menu ‘proper’ you get the “Making Of” section split into “Inspiration”, “Finding The Cast”, “Behind The Scenes”, “The Music of Africa United” and “Reflections”. “Finding the Cast” reveals that they only found Roger Nsengiyumva, who plays star footballer Fabrice Kabera, a month before shooting was due to start when they spotted his picture in an article in the Norfolk Observer and found that he’d had trials for Norwich United. There’s also a section on the making of “Duduvision”, the animated sequences where we get to travel through Dudu’s imagination, and they show the input that the locals provided.
When I say that 25% of the profit from the DVD sales is going to Comic Relief then you’ll know that the other special features are going to be a bit different. In a series of Comic Relief short films they show the day to day reality of the issues around education, HIV & Aids, child soldiers and child prostitution and the impact on the presenters is hard to ignore. Ant & Dec visit a school of AIDS orphans in Kibera, a slum town more recently featured in BBC’s “Famous, Rich and in the Slums” with Lenny Henry, Samantha Womack, Reggie Yates and Angela Rippon, and a mother of 13 children’s questions to them overwhelms Declan and reduces him to tears.
If you’ve seen the film and liked it then do get the DVD, safe in the knowledge that you’ll not only get a great DVD but also be helping solve some of the issues that the film has covered. If you haven’t seen it then I’d recommend that you buy it but whether you do buy it or not please support Comic Relief in some way today.