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Africa United

In June and July this year, the eyes of the world were focused on South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While vuvuzelas blared out from stadia, television coverage reminded us of the poverty, disease and racial tensions which still exist within the entire African continent more than 25 years after Band Aid implored the west to feed the world. Millions of children are orphans, ravaged not just by wars and famine but by an Aids epidemic that accounts for thousands of deaths every day. Comic Relief has been instrumental in raising funds to make a positive impact on the lives of these people in some of the poorest areas of the world. The charity is proudly partnering Debs Gardner-Paterson's heart-warming road trip, Africa United, which will donate 25% of net profits to Comic Relief to fund projects in some of the countries featured in the film. Rwandan football prodigy Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva) is invited to audition for the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup. He excitedly accepts the invitation and best friend and so-called 'manager' Dudu (Eriya Ndayambaje) tags along with level-headed baby sister Beatrice (Sanyu Joanita Kintu). The children don't have much money and so they sneak aboard a bus bound for the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where the trials are taking place. Unfortunately, the stowaways end up in a refugee camp in the Congo, where emotionally scarred child-soldier Foreman George (Yves Dusenge) takes them under his wing. The children break out of the refugee camp and embark on the long journey to Johannesburg for the opening ceremony. En route, they add teenager Celeste (Sherrie Silver) to their motley crew and have to evade the clutches of gun-toting thugs Tulu (Emmanuel Jal) and Egg (Presley Chweneyagae). Africa United is very rough around the edges and doesn't delve too deeply into the children's tragic back stories, trying to keep the tone light to appeal to a family audience. That said, screenwriter Rhidian Brook film doesn't completely skirt around some tricky issues, such as child prostitution and the horrors witnessed by Foreman George. "You caused a different kind of rumble in the jungle, didn't you?" Tulu taunts the youngster. Ndayambaje lights up the screen as the young chancer, who teaches the other children about sex education - "If President Obama can wear a condom, so can you!" - and gets plenty of giggles with his barrage of malapropisms ("The world is our ostrich"). He also scores with some choice football-related one-liners, like when Fabrice despairs about their lack of funds and Dude grins, "You need more than money to make a team. Look at Real Madrid!" The cast, drawn from Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan and Britain, are naturals in front of the camera and Gardner-Paterson's film builds nicely to an uplifting conclusion in Johannesburg - a burst of sunshine after the gloom of the England team's performance.