Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch Trailer for Teen TV Drama Series in Development, ‘MysEducation’ Watch Trailer for Teen TV Drama Series in Development, ‘MysEducation’ Watch Grace Jones’ “Banned” Citroën CX TV Commercial Watch Grace Jones’ “Banned” Citroën CX TV Commercial BET Adds 2 New Original Movies + New Series, and More to Its Summer Lineup BET Adds 2 New Original Movies + New Series, and More to Its Summer Lineup Official First Look Images from Detroit-Set indie drama ‘Wolf Who Cried Boy’ Official First Look Images from Detroit-Set indie drama ‘Wolf Who Cried Boy’ Morgan Freeman's Bass Reeves Project Finally Gets a Lift, Thanks to HBO Morgan Freeman's Bass Reeves Project Finally Gets a Lift, Thanks to HBO First Look at CBS' 'Rush Hour' Series + Official Synopsis First Look at CBS' 'Rush Hour' Series + Official Synopsis What Did You Think of 'Bessie' After Last Night's Premiere? What Did You Think of 'Bessie' After Last Night's Premiere? Interview: Robert Ri'chard and Imani Hakim on Child Stardom to "Chocolate City" Interview: Robert Ri'chard and Imani Hakim on Child Stardom to "Chocolate City" Watch B.B. King Tell His Story in 1972 BBC Documentary, 'Sounding Out' Watch B.B. King Tell His Story in 1972 BBC Documentary, 'Sounding Out' Here's Another New CW Series That I Would Consider Taking a Look At... Trailer #2 Is Much Longer Here's Another New CW Series That I Would Consider Taking a Look At... Trailer #2 Is Much Longer Spike Lee Finally Breaks Silence on 'Chiraq' - "Everything I've Done Has Led Up to This Film" Spike Lee Finally Breaks Silence on 'Chiraq' - "Everything I've Done Has Led Up to This Film" New York Women in Film & Television Now Accepting Applications for Its Four 2015 Funds for Women Filmmakers New York Women in Film & Television Now Accepting Applications for Its Four 2015 Funds for Women Filmmakers So Now It's Rick Famuyiwa for Marvel’s 'Black Panther' and Ava DuVernay for 'Captain Marvel'? So Now It's Rick Famuyiwa for Marvel’s 'Black Panther' and Ava DuVernay for 'Captain Marvel'? Watch Wesley Snipes & Damon Gupton in First Trailer for NBC's 'Endgame' (Set for Thursday Nights at 10pm) Watch Wesley Snipes & Damon Gupton in First Trailer for NBC's 'Endgame' (Set for Thursday Nights at 10pm) Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

"Africa United" Review: 2011 New York African Film Festival

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act April 21, 2011 at 10:08AM

A children or family film with a largely African cast is rare. African children being depicted as anything other than victims of brutal, famine and poverty stricken environments they’ve been born into are almost non existent.
0

A children or family film with a largely African cast is rare. African children being depicted as anything other than victims of brutal, famine and poverty stricken environments they’ve been born into are almost non existent.

And while I was cynical about an English director making a film set in Africa and starring African children, it would seem that director Debs Gardner-Paterson (who qualifies for dual British/Rwandan citizenship) did go to great pains to show an Africa that’s more than the limited vision of the continent usually depicted in Western media. While we do have AIDS orphans, a former child soldier and a child sex worker (albeit with royal lineage), the kinds of characters westerners tend to see as normal with regard to Africa, there’s also a middle class African who displays the kinds of values usually associated with even less than privileged children in western society – attachment to the right footwear, anxiety at the lack of a mobile network signal also fit into the mix.

While I wouldn’t say they were all imbued with great depth and complexity, they were certainly depicted as children with vision, eager to take up the call to adventure, human enough to recognize at various stages that they might fail on their mission, and yet tenacious enough to see it through despite the odds stacked against them.

Africa United is certainly a likable film. The cast are enjoyable to watch, though at times it did feel like watching high school drama club enthusiasts living out stage-school veteran dreams. A self-consciousness pervaded the cast, but not so bad that it detracted from the film’s charm. The best performance, in my view, was that of Yves Dusenge who played former child soldier, Foreman George. His withdrawn yet involved performance showed the kind of understated restraint and that made it easy to believe that he might have had a childhood in which he’d seen and done things no child should ever be exposed to.

Despite the film's uplifting and adventurous spirit, however, there was something a little flat about it at times. It has all the right ingredients for a classic children’s film – it has adventure, villains, obstacles a plenty – but there just didn’t seem to be a great sense of excitement, terror, thrill, or even great emotional depth to it, until, perhaps the last third of the film. Cues and plot points were met and ticked off as done as the film progressed, but the obstacles were seemingly easily surmounted, villains easily thwarted and, while we could see the possible dangers, there was still a sense of detachment from it all – no sense of being part of the team, no adrenaline rush – a bit like watching a news feature but with an upbeat message. Or perhaps, not being the targeted demographic, I’m just too old and cynical.

I could have also done with a little less football star references and corporate/team branding (t-shirts, football boots), which got a little tiresome after a while and which, but for the fact that it is being released some months later, made it feel like one long ad for the 2010 South Africa World Cup. And while the film did as much as possible to portray a good image of Africa, its occasional not so subtle didactic public service moralizing about AIDS and safe sex did seem a bit heavy handed and jarring at times, and I almost half expected the cast to turn to smile into the camera and encourage everyone to come on over, have fun, but put a condom on.

A pleasant surprise, and one of my favorite things about the film, was the animated sequences that made up the story told by Dudu as the Africa United team members grew in number and their adventures unfolded. The animated story within the story brought back home the fact that this was a story, about children, African children, and keeping alive their indomitable spirit of hope in the face of adversity.


Shadow & ActNewsletter