Africa United as reviewed in Phantom TollboothAn uplifting, action-packed, 3,000 mile road movie – on foot


Pathé / Fox Pal DVD, rated 12

84 minutes

5.1 Dolby

A road movie with a difference, the heart-warming Africa United follows a gang of children all the way from Rwanda to South Africa as they try to catch last summer’s World Cup.

Most have baggage of one sort or another. For footballer Fabrice, once they take the wrong bus and end up in Congo, it is the emotional strain of having missed his trial for the opening ceremony. For friends they pick up en route, it is the legacy of having being a sex worker (Celeste) or having been a child soldier (Foreman George). For Fabrice’s pint-sized ‘manager,’ the film’s grinning star, Dudu, it is ever-present briefcase.

On their 3,000 mile journey, the crew has to get past child traffickers, brothel owners, wild animals, transit camp officials, border officials, feral children and a lake. They get help along the way from a Christian children’s mission, their mutual support and a healthy dose of street-wise nous.

Writer Rhidian Brook has ensured that this is a true family film – accessible enough to the kids to identify with; referencing enough underlying serious themes, such as HIV, for adult interest; and with plenty of adventures for all. Based on nine months’ experience with his young family of life in the world’s AIDs hotspots, he has achieved the tricky balance of addressing the continent’s major threats within a basically funny and uplifting film.

As well as a few surprising twists and turns – the opening sequence, where Dudu gives an AIDs lecture, while blowing up a condom football, is hardly expected – Director Debs Gardner-Paterson has injected some ‘Duduvision’ animation, based on African children’s drawings, and these have their own earthy and colourful charm.

Although there are cameos from African celebrities, the child actors are newcomers, whose raw energy gives the story some essential authenticity.

The extras include an insightful commentary (we find out that the children’s reaction to their overturned car exploding was genuine, as they were not primed that it would happen); four separate Comic Relief videos, including stars such as Ant and Dec; and making-of featurettes that include recording the sound and creating Duduvision. At least 25% of the profits from the film will go to Comic Relief.

This film epitomizes the resilient joy of Africa.

Derek Walker