By Monica Obaga, Buni.tv
Street Kids United is a feature length documentary that follows homeless children in Durban, SA, as they form a team to compete as South Africa in the first Street Kids World Cup. It took place three months before the World Cup in 2010.
The film opens after a practice match. Energized, happy and familial, the kids walk down the street towards the camp. A street kid calls after them from under his home, a flat cardboard box, the only sign that all may not be as it seems.
The camp is ran by social workers, Biza and Emma, whose ultimate goal is to transition the children away from street life, through practical assistance, but mainly instilling a sense of future, pride and purpose. They have a lot of experience and though realistic (Biza’s a former street child), their warmth and optimism lights up the screen.
The documentary’s narrative is neatly structured, as the end of their time at the camp
coincides with their big event, the Street Kids World Cup, and their reentry into society. What’s incredible is that everyone seems unaffected by the cameras. There is no sense of performance or exaggeration, and there isn’t a need for it, since the stakes are already so high. The kids’ and families’ candor when briefly reunited in the hope for a permanent reconciliation is one example, ranging from emotional and heartwarming to cool and untrusting.
There are smaller, but memorable moments in the film, like the football teams being coed (mixed, boys and girls) without any fuss, which was a pleasant surprise.
Don’t mistake this for an ordinary talking head documentary about street children. The film has a very unique perspective. While a majority of the film takes place during the happiest time of their lives, the film does not shy away from the children’s dotty pasts, or the efficacy of the camp. The children are all smart and kind, but run the gamut of runaway, from teens wanting to go home and finish school, to very young traumatized kids, needing more assistance than the camp could provide.
This is a realistic tale about hope.
Watch Street Kids United on Buni+