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Rwandan Footballers Kick Off World African Film Fest Jamaica

The Jamaican leg of the 2013 Africa World Documentary Film Festival got underway at the University of the West Indies, Mona, on Wednesday evening with Rwanda-17: The Healing of a Nation. The film festival will take over the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre from Thursday, April 25 through to Sunday, April 29 during which almost 30 films will be screened.

The films hail from Africa and its Diaspora including the Caribbean with films from Jamaican, Cuba, Sudan, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. The films will be screened daily between 2pm and 9pm.

Rwanda-17 will be screened again on Friday, April 26, at 2pm. The film surrounds the journey of the Rwandan under 17 National football team from qualification to their brief foray at the 2011 World Cup in Mexico.

While not a brilliantly made documentary, and the narrator annoyingly insists on trying to tie everything back to the genocide, it is an interesting work. The film attempts to explore the country’s strides toward getting beyond a history of poverty and colonialism which culminated in the bloodbath that drowned the country in April 1994.

A sports documentary is perfectly suited for the feel-good emotions that Rwanda-17 shoots for. Sports, so heavily mired in muck, sweat and quite often blood, are great for symbolising triumph and re-birth. The Rwandan team are the perfect under-dogs and you do want to root for them.

The young and reasonably in-experienced team had been training to two years, and represented the first time the country had qualified for the world cup. Their journey was therefore symbolic of the new Rwanda, an element with which the narrator slapped you over the head continuously.

The boys on the football team were generally all born after the Rwandan genocide, the oldest of them having been in the womb at the time. They are therefore representative of the generation that has come about after reconciliation.

Nonetheless, it is a decent effort. Additionally, it is good to see images of the country beyond talk of the genocide. It’s is important that images of Africa outside of strife and suffering get their fair share of the spotlight, and despite its shortcomings Rwanda-17 provides some of this.

The Africa World Doc Film Fest is a nomadic festival and 2013 is being held at several institutions across the globe between March and September. The festival will be held in the United States at the Missouri History Museum (St. Luis), the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies (Philadelphia), St Louis University and the University of Kansas. The festival will has have stagings at the University of Yaounde (Yaounde, Cameroon), The University of the Western Cape (Bellville, South Africa) culminating at the ‘I Will Tell’ International Film Festival in London.