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Südafrikanische Botschaft
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Botschaft, Presse

02. August 2010

Berlin-Premiere: Themba - A Boy Called Hope (Themba - Das Spiel seines Lebens)

Themba and Jens Lehmann

On Sunday, 08 August  2010, 11am the Embassy of South Africa in Berlin, in co-operation with Cinema for Peace, Gemeinsam für Afrika e.V., Zeitsprung Entertainment GmbH and Alpha medienkontor GmbH will screen the Movie "Themba – A Boy Called Hope" (Themba - Das Spiel seines Lebens, OmU) at Kant Kino (Kantstrasse 54, 10627 Berlin). Admission is the usual ticket price of 8€ Euro.

The movie aims at drawing attention to the plight of children suffering from HIV in South Africa. It is a SA-German co-production and was released in South Africa on 16 July 2010. It is produced by South African film director, Stefanie Sycholt and features international singer, Simphiwe Dana and Jens Lehman, former German national goal keeper in his first movie role.

After the screening there will be a discussion with the director Stefanie Sycholt, the Deputy Head of the Embassy, Ms Mbuyane-Mokone, Paul Bendix (Board Member of Gemeinsam für Africa), Jaka Bizilj (Cinema for Peace) and a representative of Stars of Tomorrow. Moderator: Heiko Paluschka (TV Moderator/ Journalist).

Synopsis of the film:
Themba, like every 11-year-old in the worl, dreams of playing soccer like Zidane, of becoming Africa’s Maradona, of following in the footsteps of his local hero Andile Khumalo. As part of the South African national team Bafana Bafana,
Living in a round-hut village wedged between green hills and the red earth of an eroded valley, dreams are the only thing Themba can afford. Everything else comes with a price tag.

Themba has no toys, no creature comforts, and no food in his belly, but he has a loving mother, Mandisa, who adores him, and his sister Nomtha.
Through Mandisa's patient insistence, she teaches him the value of education and to have faith in his absent father in pursuit of his political calling.  In this part of the country, many people are dying of AIDS — a lonely death hidden away from the public, because even talking about the illness is considered to be shameful.

Themba realizes that something is severely wrong with this attitude when he discovers that the mother of his best friend Sipho died of AIDS months ago. Sipho and his siblings are hiding her and her disease, and keep up the appearance of a normal family life. They fear being shunned should anyone find out the truth. No wonder the boys need a release. And what could be better suited than soccer to blow off some steam? Especially for two natural talents like Themba and Sipho.

Times are hard, and Themba’s mother takes in a lodger: Luthando. He gradually erodes her self-sacrificing determination and becomes Mandisa's lover, much to Themba’s dismay. Themba resents being replaced as the man of the house, and Luthando, unemployed and despaired himself, is in no position to help with the family’s problems. When Themba’s mother is fired from her job on a white farm, she heads for Cape Town in the hope of earning the money they so desperately need.

They only hear from her occasionally, and Themba’s only way of coping with the longing for his mother is to throw himself headlong into the training with his soccer team, the Lion Strikers. They compete in a regional tournament and attract the attention of Big John, Coach of Ajax Cape Town, and of its star player, Andile Khumalo. Big John gives Themba his business card and promises to sponsor soccer boots for the barefoot players, in time for the finals.
But Themba never gets to play in this long anticipated match: Just before the big day, he is raped by a drunken Luthando. Themba decides that he must protect his sister from a similar fate — and not even Sipho can dissuade him from getting on the bus to Cape Town in search of his mother, from whom they have had no news in more than six months.
Themba and his sister find themselves on an odyssey through the urban jungle of Cape Town that finally takes them to their mother. Ragged, frail and alone she lies in a waterlogged shack on the outskirts of an impoverished township. When she collapses and is taken to a hospital, the children are forced to face the truth: their mother has AIDS and is beyond treatment. Fighting back tears, Themba begs the nurse on duty to help her, to bring her back to life. In order to make some money, Themba tries to find odd jobs around the city, but it is not fruitful.

Finally, he calls John Jacobs and asks him for a job. But Jacobs offers him to come to practice, and gives him money for it. Themba puts a lot of effort into his practice, and is soon able to advance to the youth team of Ajax Cape Town. Jacobs even asks Andile Khumalo to be a mentor for Themba, and at the same time, against all odds, Mandisa responds to the treatment - Themba is overwhelmed and happy.
But then Mandisa reveals that it was Luthando who infected her. This knocks the wind out of Themba, and at the urging of Nomtha he gets tested. On the day before he is lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit on the bench during a match with the Bafana Bafana, he receives the news: he is HIV positive.

One of the players is injured, and Themba is put in. He wears the jersey with pride and enters the match fill of excitement. Then he is the one to shoot the game-deciding final goal, and the cheering crowds in the stadium exalt him. Themba is the hero of the day!
At the following press conference, Themba decides to tell the shocked reporters: "I am HIV positive, and I refuse to be ashamed of it. I was raped and I do not want to feel ashamed because it may kill me!" This statement receives a lot of support and praise, but also quite a bit of protest.

"We want to welcome the whole world to the football World Cup 2010, but we also want to be honest with our successes as with out challenges and problems.

The movie Themba can play an important role here. I wish this film project – that will be realized in cooperation with local people in the Eastern Cape and the township of Masiphumelele near Cape Town – all possible success."
Desmond M Tutu Archbishop Emeritus

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