Film: Kassim the Dream

The haunting story of a child soldier turned boxer.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


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.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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