Mark Blaney, a graduate of the Arts University Bournemouth, is celebrating as his new film, ‘Africa United’, goes on general release in UK cinemas.
The film, produced by Mark’s production company Footprint Films, tells the extraordinary story of three Rwandan children who walk 3000 miles to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, using a World Cup wall chart as a map. Along the way they gather a tribe of broken and brilliant characters who help them negotiate their way through a series of glorious, dangerous, hilarious and often bizarre situations. Through these children, the audience encounter an Africa few people ever get to see and experience the hard reality of an epic walk through seven countries.
Mark, who graduated from the Arts University in 1992, founded production company Footprint Films with three fellow University graduates, including Simon Beaufoy, OSCAR-winning screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire and The Full Monty.
Convinced there must be positive stories to tell out of Africa, Mark and his producing partner Jackie Sheppard had been looking for an upbeat and hopeful story for a number of years. In 2007 Mark met director Debs Gardner-Paterson (who would go on to direct Africa United) and made a life-changing trip to Rwanda. The idea for the film was sent to him by Rwandan filmmaker and friend Ayuub Kasasa Mago, and conceived by Rwandan producer Eric Kabera. The film is the first ever UK/South Africa/Rwanda film co-production.
The cast consists of two children from Uganda, one from Rwanda, and two who are Rwandan by birth but now live in the UK. Mark hopes that the successful release of the film in the UK and Eire, by distributor Pathé, will persuade companies in other countries to distribute Africa United.
The film, touted by critics as ?the feelgood film of the year? may even change the way in which people in the rest of the world perceive Africa. Mark explained: “We were so bowled over by the different, but real, view of Africa and Rwanda that we experienced – and we knew we couldn’t fit the whole world onto an aeroplane! – so we just had to offer everyone the chance to see Africa differently via the cinema screen.”
Comic Relief, the official charity partners in the film, have a new campaign called See Africa Differently, and with 25% of all net profits from the film going back to Africa through Comic Relief, Mark hopes the film will have a positive impact both within Africa and the rest of the world.
Mark has good memories of his time studying in Bournemouth: “It’s where I was born, grew up and studied, so a piece of my heart is always going to be there. I have the fondest memories of my time at the University, as it was the first time I was allowed and enabled to focus on making films. There were brilliant people there then, as there are now, who were passionate about sharing their knowledge, and I have much to thank them for.”