Boxing is therapy for former child soldier Kassim

Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:32am EDT
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By Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) - What struck U.S. filmmaker Kief Davidson about Ugandan child soldier turned world champion boxer Kassim "The Dream" Ouma was that he was always smiling.

Davidson became fascinated by how Ouma, kidnapped from school at age 6 by the rebel army of Yoweri Museveni -- who is now Uganda's president -- dealt with his nightmare past.

More than two years after first seeing Ouma on a TV news segment, Davidson's beautifully shot documentary, "Kassim The Dream," debuted on Friday at New York's Tribeca Film Festival. In the film, Davidson tells the story of Ouma's first journey back to Uganda since he fled to the United States in 1998.

The filming took place last year during a cease-fire between Museveni's government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

But one of Africa's longest wars rages on, after nearly two years of negotiations collapsed in early April. The 22-year civil war has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million more in northern Uganda alone.

Ouma, who learned to box in the army, fled to the United States when he was 19 using a visa given to him for a military boxing championship. He arrived homeless and unable to speak English, at one point handing out pizza fliers before finding a boxing gym, where his talent became apparent.

"Boxing was my way out and it's my therapy," said Ouma, 29.

And it was his boxing fame, in particular his high-profile match against reigning middleweight champion Jermain Taylor that helped him obtain a pardon from Ugandan President Museveni and visit his homeland.   Continued...

<p>Ugandan child soldier turned world champion boxer Kassim "The Dream" Ouma is shown in this film still from the documentary "Kassim the Dream". REUTERS/Believe Media and Urban Landscapes/Handout</p>