Slumdog film Africa United tackles gritty subjects

22/10/10

Roger Nsengiyumva and Eriya Ndayambaje

Africa United is being hailed as the African version of Slumdog Millionaire and it's easy to understand why comparisons have been made.

It's an uplifting story which shows hardship, but at the same time reveals a sense of emotional fun and joy.

It's based on two teenagers Dudu, a street hustler and Fabrice, who comes from a privileged background.

Both live in Rwanda and love football and they are also best friends.

Their lives change when a Fifa representative discovers Fabrice's footy talents and invites him to take part in Africa United trials tied in with the South African World Cup.

The pair embark on a 3,000-mile trip through seven countries and assorted dangers en route.

If you're the emotional type make sure you have a box of tissues to hand as the film is a bit of a roller coaster.

Fresh stars

The cast are all new actors and surprisingly two are from the UK.

Roger Nsengiyumva, who plays Fabrice, lives in Norwich.

Emmanuel Jal
Image caption International singer Emmanuel Jal was born into the life of a child soldier

He told Newsbeat how he got the role: "My mum wrote a book and my face is on the cover.

"The producer saw my face and called my mum and invited me in to an audition and I got it. How brilliant.

"But filming in Africa was weird because I'm a bit of a mummy's boy and 10 weeks without her was pretty nuts.

"Whenever I've gone to Africa I've always been with her."

Sherrie Silver plays Celeste and was originally born in Rwanda in 1994, the year of the genocide.

Her father was killed a month before her birth and five years later she came to Britain with her mother.

She now lives in west Norwood in south London.

"The film tackles issues that people are afraid to tackle in movies," she explained.

"For example HIV and Aids, poverty, sex slavery, orphans, everything's in there.

"However, the film covers these issues in a fun and colourful way. It's not too heavy to take in.

"They just made sure that you enjoy the film and also learn about what other people go through in general."

Child soldier

Other unlikely actors in the film include the international singer Emmanuel Jal who was born into the life of a child soldier.

He describes how the film-makers contacted him for help in portraying those elements of the film.

He said: "They called me and said the film wasn't just about music.

"I gave them tips about how they could make the child soldier part light and how to put jokes into the film.

"That's when they asked me if I'd like to act. I told them I'd never done it before but could try."

Africa United is in cinemas now.