Film: Kassim the Dream

The haunting story of a child soldier turned boxer.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


In 1986, six-year-old Kassim Ouma was abducted by Ugandan rebels and forced to become a child soldier. The guerrillas eventually took over the government (they remain in power today), and Ouma was obliged to remain in uniform. But when he was 19, he used a visa he obtained as a member of the army boxing team to defect to the United States, where he went on to become junior middleweight boxing champion of the world.

In this intimate documentary coproduced by Forest Whitaker, Ouma—nicknamed “The Dream” by a trainer because of his improbable story—is after far more than triumph in the ring. He wants to use his celebrity to recover what’s left of his life back home and help other child soldiers along the way. With vibrant color and a hip-hop score, coproducer and director Kief Davidson introduces us to a man of grace, agility, and childlike joy. He follows Ouma as he survives Rocky-esque bouts with bigger opponents; socializes with the Irish American manager whose family he adopts (“I’m black Irish,” Ouma quips); reunites his two sons in the States; and urges lawmakers to send more aid to Africa.

Now in his late 20s, what Ouma wants most is to go home—pardon in hand, since he’s still a deserter. His recollections gradually reveal just how charged any homecoming might be. The boxer’s buoyancy is eerily hard to reconcile with his memories of the horrors he once inflicted. It’s this disconnect that makes Kassim the Dream so poignant.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.