Yesterday I attended the World Bank’s Africa Film Series’ screening of ‘Scoring for Peace’. It was followed by a panel discussion featuring the filmmaker Sarah Farhat, South Africa’s Ambassador, Ebrahim Rasool, and some gentleman who worked at the Bank whose name I did not catch (another engaging World Bank staffer moderated). I arrived late and had a very short time to consume the impressive spread of cheeses, deli meats, and beer that the Bank had laid out. It was my first time inside the bank and I was quite taken back by both the refreshments and high level of security.
The film examined the inaugural edition of the Great Lakes Peace Cup, a soccer tournament held in Uganda that fielded teams from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo. The filmmaker followed one player each from three teams (Congo was neglected due to the country’s security situation, although I suspect time may have been a factor as no one from the Congo is even featured during the tournament, at which the filmmaker was present) to tell the story. Most of the film was set in the three countries on the verge of the kick-off of the tournament – the players conveyed their hopes, dreams, and desires to us and the audience got to see their living situations. One wants to be a lawyer, another is a development worked, and the third a soccer coach. I have never been to the region and found the scenery to be quite impressive. Unsurprisingly, Rwanda had the best pitch.
One player, speaking of his familiarity with an old pair of cleats spoke an adage that I and the audience really enjoyed – ‘the old broom knows all the corners in the room.’ Burundi ended up defeating Uganda for the title and the film was quite enjoyable. The crowd seemed to enjoy it even more than I as it received a substantial round of applause. You can watch the trailer here.
Ambassador Rasool was the highlight of the panel. He is an extremely charismatic speaker, although I found his frequent references to the genius of Nelson Mandela to be a bit excessive. He somberly noted that Mandela was inaugurated as the genocide in Rwanda was taking place. He also put a slice of current affairs in his remarks – obliquely noting that a democratically elected government in Egypt had been overthrown by the army and comparing the plight of Palestinians to blacks in Apartheid era South Africa. He spoke of Mandela’s outreach to Afrikaners during South Africa’s success in the Rugby World Cup. He went on to note that ‘football has the wonderful ability to strip you down…your race, religion, ethnicity ceases to matter.
Sarah Farhat, briefly spoke on how she came to make the film and noted that she had tried to have the main characters present for the screening, however, they were not able to acquire visas in time. She also spoke of how the players valued getting to travel and meet other people, noting that they said that they wished they could play matches against teams from countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone. The remaining gentleman noted that the World Bank plans to shortly announce an initiative focusing on sports and peace-building/development.