I have followed with great interest the local and international reviews about the movie “Africa United”. What is more is that, as a journalist, I was assigned to specifically cover its African premier.
That assignment exposed me to the cast and crew of the movie, where as somebody ever interested, in thinking outside the box by looking at the bigger picture, I set out asking the production team, including homeboy Eric Kabera, reasons why the movie should be taken in a completely new or different light, the way they are claiming.
During the movie’s premier at Serena Hotel, Kigali, the Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, talked about celebrating and nurturing local creativity, talent and entrepreneurship within cinema that the likes of Eric Kabera and company have been pursuing relentlessly and with so much passion for more than 15 years now.
That brings me to the next observation. Is it correct to say that “Africa United” has enabled Hillywood –the nascent Rwandan movie industry – to come of age? If that is the case, the next question would be: How can Hillywood ensure that its returns on investment, in terms of time and money spent, is assured so that we can have hundreds of other young Rwandans joining the galaxy and ranks of new African and by extension world movie stars in the days to come especially, as Rwanda seeks to transform itself?
Put another way, Dr Agnes Binagwaho needs to fully understand that cinematography has very many facets. It is simply not enough to look at cinema as a medium of telling the empirical truths. While I have a lot of respect for Dr Binagwaho, as a medical professional and senior civil servant, we must equally give rare praise to Eric Kabera for his ground breaking initiatives that are meant to tell the African story in a purely African way using comic relief and other stereotypes. By this, I mean the use of comedy to convey a message the way, we, Africans, know it.
Africa, our continent which has so much potential still faces a myriad of challenges that the movie aptly captures. And that is very refreshing rather than the sterile documentary type, praise singing methodology that Dr Binagwaho would prefer.
I pray that “Africa United” hits it big time within main stream Hollywood in the days to come. If it hits box office and grosses within the first three months, maybe more than US$50 million within the USA, which is the largest movie market in the world, then perhaps those still doubting the extent of raw talent within Africa that this movie seeks to unleash will have their eyes open up to what the future holds for Hillywood.
I say so because that is precisely what happened to the “Slum Dog Millionaire”, another movie set in similar circumstances to that of “Africa United”. How would young Rwandans, in particular, and other young Africans generally feel if the cast of “Africa United” would be straddling the red carpet of Hollywood in California, USA, next year in the same way the cast of the “Slum Dog Millionaire” did by being nominated for the prestigious motion picture academy awards, otherwise known as The Oscars?
Such a great feeling can only be fully explained and appreciated by Dr Binagwaho’s children and not the good doctor herself. Such a prospect of Rwandans being nominated for an Oscar award can only be fully understood by the young Rwandan generation who can relate with the stars of “Africa United” in a way that the older generation would not fully understand.
Lastly, I must also point out that, in my view “Africa United” movie project is, in one way or another, following the Government of Rwanda’s wise counsel to its people to shun the culture of mediocrity by rising up to be counted as Africans, capable of producing goods and services that can be appreciated and consumed, not only in Rwanda or Africa, but the whole world.
In that light “Africa United” has a great potential of becoming a truly global brand.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is an editor with The New Times