The film “Africa United” tells a story of people with hopes to pursue their dreams. And yet, regretfully, it does not portray a positive image of Africa or any “new Africa.” The film portrays the same African continent that is in the mind of too many: an Africa synonymous with poverty, sex slavery and child prostitution, weak and irresponsable administrations and institutions, orphans, violence, child soldiers and poor management of pediatric HIV infections.
The film is nonetheless an achievement - it is great that Rwandan cinematic work has sucessfully entered the entertainment industry. However, despite the fact that the film presents the aforementioned grave issues in a lighthearted and colorful way, the content of the piece is full of classic, negative stereotypes of Africa.
Further, it highlights weak African administrations and institutions where children below the age of eighteen can move from one border to another without the authorities showing any concern or taking any action. The storyline even shows the children receiving visas based on their football performance in competition with public administration officials, without legal passport or any identity document.
The film undermines positive parent–child dialogue, instead portraying negative parent-child dialogue: children disagree with their parents and decide to run away thereby cutting all possibilities for intra-generational discourse and familial problem-solving. This aspect of the film, too, displays a very narrow and stereotypical image of the African child and family, one that is certainly not representative.
Also, one of the children in the film is shown to prefer running away from HIV treatment for football even though it is very clear that this choice is a death sentence for any persons infected by HIV. We cannot ignore the fact that HIV treatment is costly, and countries pay huge sums of money to ensure that children are compliant to their HIV treatment.
It is clear that parents have to counsel our young children who will watch this film to ensure that the proper message is taken out of it. If not, children will get the message that once they disagree with their parents on an issue that they believe to be their passion or right, the solution is to run away and find their own means of attaining that passion or that dream, no matter the cost. If the cinematographers willed it, they could portray realistic and positive images of health, education and children in conflict, and development.
The cinematographers could have made major advances by aligning such topics with the core message of the movie about determination, hope and attaining one’s dreams and goals. I hope this will be done in another movie in the future.
I strongly believe that this film does not build on elements of growth, peace and prosperity of the African continent. Africa United portrays the Africa of misery, the Africa of epidemics, the Africa of fragile and unsupportive institutions and administration, the Africa of child prostitution, and Africa of orphans, the Africa with a high and constant level of violence.
We cannot deny the fact that the film portrays Rwandan youth and youth from the region as having significant and impressive talent, and also shows that with determination a person can attain their dream and goal in life. The film also promotes tolerance as it highlights that a child prostitute and a child soldier are above everything children – just children who have been mistreated by life.
The story about the young girl who stayed behind and pursued her dream to become a doctor was indeed moving. And in reality, there are many more stories like this one.
Africa needs skills and a population with strong leadership and a track record of professional achievements. From an investment standpoint, no one wants to spend their money on substandard institutions and administrations like the ones portrayed in the film. Rather, we all wish to collaborate with a vibrant and sound administration.
I would like our youth to understand that although the story is a message of encouragement to follow dreams and make them happen, the film does not portray a new image of Africa as written by Izuba Rirashe issue 470.
Dr Binagwaho is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health