MOST people associate the central African state of Rwanda with the genocide of 1994 which killed more than one million people.

But a Boscombe-born film producer is aiming to show the humour and the spirit of its people through a new £4 million film Africa United, which hits 220 cinemas across the UK including the Empire at Tower Park, Poole, today.

Mark Blaney, 41, and colleague Jackie Sheppard, of Footprint Films, had a shared vision to create films that were both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Mark had originally founded the company with fellow Bournemouth Film school graduates who ironically included Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy.

The idea for the film originated in Africa with producer Eric Kabera who wanted to tell positive stories about Africa.

It follows five Rwandan youngsters on a 3,000-mile roadtrip across Africa as they aim to get young football prodigy Fabrice to South Africa to take part in the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.

Eric’s colleague Ayuub Kasasa Mago had worked with director Debs Gardner-Paterson who had already inspired Mark and Jackie with her short film, ‘We Are All Rwandans’.

Mark and Jackie realised they had found their inspiration when they saw the first line of an outline script sent to them by Ayuub, entitled Condom Boy goes to the World Cup, prompted by a custom among African youths of creating makeshift footballs out of condoms.

Mark said: “There was this one line – A kid walks from Rwanda to the World Cup. That was the story we wanted to tell. It was full of possibility.”

The team were determined to find authentic youngsters to play the five characters.

Rwandan-born Roger Nsengiyumva, who plays Fabrice, fled with his mother after his father was murdered in the genocide while Eriya Ndayambaje, who plays Dudu, is a member of the Batwa tribe.

Mark said: “None of them had acted before. We wanted genuine performances and we wanted them to bring something of themselves to the screen.

“We hope that it will make people see Africa differently.”

Twenty-five per cent of the film’s net profits will go to Comic Relief’s work in Africa.