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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Friday, 22 October 2010 16:39 UK
Africa United: Norwich star sees screen debut in city
Roger Nsengiyumva
Roger Nsengiyumva is back home following the film's glitzy premiere

The teenage star of a film which has received standing ovations in London and Toronto attended its opening in Norwich on Friday, 22 October 2010.

Roger Nsengiyumva took 60 family and friends along to the screening of Africa United in his home city.

The 16-year-old is one of the lead characters in the film, which follows a group of Rwandan children on their way to the World Cup in South Africa.

"It's going to be crazy to see it with all my friends," said Roger.

The Norwich City College student watched himself on the silver screen on the day that the movie goes on show across the UK.

The release of the film - which has drawn comparisons with Slumdog Millionaire - follows acclaimed debuts at the London and Toronto film festivals.


Sunday's premiere in London's Leicester Square was sold out and Roger, who plays soccer sensation Fabrice, was amazed by the turnout.

A scene from Africa United
Africa United was filmed in three countries across the continent

"It was lovely but I was so surprised to see that many people," said Roger.

"It got a standing ovation at then end and I had to run on and do a question-and-answer session."

Roger ended up starring in the film almost by accident after producer Mark Blaney spotted a local magazine article about him and his mother Illimunee, who had written a book Miracle in Kingali, together with author Paul Dickson about their escape.


Roger's father was killed before he was born and Illimunee fled the Rwandan genocide when her son was just nine days old to start a new life in Norwich.

"It's both a very emotional and crazy time," she said of her son's success.

"I'm very proud of him. We'd always been together but he asked to go filming on his own. The chaperone called me all the time and said, 'You should just be so proud of your son!'."

Roger spent 10 weeks filming in Rwanda, South Africa and Burundi and he enjoyed the opportunity to visit and work in his native country.

"I loved Rwanda because that's where I was born but Norwich is home," he said.

South Africa

Since the clapperboard went down on the film's final scene, Roger has returned to South Africa twice.

The first time was to take part in South Africa's World Cup celebration in June - mirroring the film's main thrust - and a dream come true for the ex-Norwich City tryout.

Roger Nsengiyumva
Roger was spotted in a local magazine article by producer Mark Blaney

He said: "It was amazing. The crowd was out of this world. I was carrying the Ghana flag and I was so nervous."

New role

The call to go to South Africa for the third time in six months came when he won the lead role in a new BBC TV drama, called Homirid, about the ascent of man.

The two-part programme is due to be shown around Christmas.

"There's a place in South Africa where there are just caves and rocks for miles, so we filmed there," he said.

"I was so happy to be back and it was funny because the crew of Africa United in South Africa said if you film here once you'll film here again and they were right."

While Roger is waiting to see how the scribes digest the movie and film buffs respond to it, he's continuing to study for a BTEC in public services and re-take his English and maths GCSEs.

He was forced to miss the second exams in both subjects to complete Africa United's closing scenes.

"I wanted to join the army, but I might now stick with the acting," he said.

Country profile: Rwanda
04 May 11 |  Country profiles
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15 Oct 10 |  Arts & Culture
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29 Apr 10 |  Arts & Culture



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