In the new documentary film, Imba Means Sing, viewers go behind the scenes with the African Children's Choir as it embarks on a tour of America and Britain. When the preteen singers prepare to leave their homes in Uganda for 500 days on the road, we get glimpses of their villages and mud-floor shacks. Yet, the movie -- produced by CNN alum Erin Bernhardt and directed by Danielle Bernstein -- never dwells on the kids' disadvantages; instead, it focuses on the universal dreams of childhood, the importance of primary education and the indomitable African spirit. Music and the chance for a better future are what give the film its spiritual force and these world-traveling pupils their confidence.
Drummer Moses wants to be a pilot when he grows up; Angel aims to run for President of her country. Both see their educations as personal responsibilities and routes out of poverty for their families. Since its inception in 1984, the choir has put one or two groups on tour each year and has made recordings (it was nominated for a Grammy award in 1992), but its story has never been told in such an intimate way. Through the eyes of the singers -- and their sweet voices and extensive repertoire of songs -- we experience again what it's like to taste pancakes for the first time or see snowflakes fall from the sky, as the children do while visiting with American host families. We also understand how much we take for granted in our own backyards - from our education system to the arts, sports and leisure activities our children enjoy without the burden of one day being accountable for their families' livelihoods.
This film does not portray Uganda as a place without hope, nor does it use a paternalistic view of the Western families that open their homes to the singers. The film hammers home important education statistics: Children who receive a proper education are less likely to contract HIV; the education of one child can help entire families break out of poverty; and for every year of education a child has, his or her salary, as an adult will increase by 10%. Equally as motivational to the audience, however, are the scenes in which it is impossible for viewers to deny the injustice of poverty; and the concept that "where you are born should not determine whether you live or die" gives the footage a call-to-action for everyone to support global education initiatives, because a rising tide lifts all boats. Imba is a heartwarming film that will make you thankful for the wisdom and innocence of children, and the grace and revelation their voices carry. This week, give your kids some Valentine's candy and then show them this documentary for a sweetness that lasts longer than a bite.
Imba Means Sing is available for purchase and download from on-demand cable services as well as Vimeo, Amazon and other streaming options, with profits going toward the funding of a secondary school for the choir students. Click HERE to watch now.