‘Soul Boy’ Review

‘Soul Boy’ Review

‘Soul Boy’ Review

The 20th Pan-African Film Festival 2012 is underway featuring over 150 films from America, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, all showcasing the diversity and complexity of people of African descent. The festival has over 150 quality films from the different countries each with award and merit or worthy of the same.

Last night I was privileged to view one of the 2010 entries for the festival titled Soul Boy. This film is directed by Ghanaian-Kenyan Hawa Essuman and produced by Tom Tkywer whose name is associated with big screen hits like The International and Perfume.

It is shot in one of Kenya’s worst kept secret locations and features a majority Kenyan cast. It has been winning awards since its debut including a recent Ksh10, 000 dollar award announced after the screening. The movie was shot in Kibera and tells the story of Abila, a fourteen year old boy living in the slum that wakes up one morning and finds his father barely conscious.

The old man is babbling nonsense and looks to be chasing the grim reaper. His son tries to wake him up to no avail. He assumes that someone has stolen his father’s soul and embarks on an inspirational mission to get it back.

The story tells the audience various facets of Kibera life including superstition, manual labor, mob justice, young romance and human nature. Abila confronts the local witch, saves a man from public execution, deals with his “tween” feelings for his girlfriend and saves the life of the child of a man he has never met, in a place he never fathomed existed.

The film is a dive into a world so surreal it had me wondering, “Is that really Kibera?” Kibera is not the most glamorous place on earth. It is East Africa’s largest slum and a challenge to the Kenya Tourism Board’s targets. The movie is in Kiswahili, Luo and Kikuyu with subtitles.

Although, the subtitles were not necessarily in sync with the words being spoken, for the Swahili speaking audience (particularly those exposed to the dialect being used) feel a powerful sense of identification. There is nothing like hearing it firsthand because the translation loses some of the impact of the words. In addition, the movie cast was all Kenyan with the exception of the wealthy white family depicted in the Karen scene.

The film is part of an initiative by the Kenyan National Museum Society dubbed “Know Kenya More Through Films”. It seeks to educate people on Kenya through the lenses of various film makers including Hawa Essuman, Willie Owusu, Charles Ouda, Vincent Mbaya and Jane Murago Munene.

Each of the mentioned names have a movie for public consideration including Soul Boy which showed on the 29th of February, Kimya and The Roadside directed by Willie Owusu on the 28th of March, Aphrodite and Valentine ya Njaramba directed by Charles Ouda on the 25th of April and The Unbroken by Jane Mutago Munene on the 30th of May respectively.

The films are being shown at the Louis Leakey Auditorium at the National Museum for Ksh 500 per ticket for non-members, Ksh 400 for members and Ksh 200 for students.

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