Sunday, September 13, 2020

Movie with Abe: Softie

Directed by Sam Soko
Released September 18, 2020 (Virtual Cinema)

The decision to run for political office is not one made lightly and without an understanding of the implications of both the campaign process and the responsibilities of the position if election proves successful. Committing to proving competence to prospective voters requires time and dedication, and events and functions may overlap with or detract from the ability to be with family or friends. In a country with a stable democratic government system, all that is required, but when corruption runs rampant and lawlessness leads to fatal consequences, an intent to inspire change can be met with dangerous opposition.

Boniface Mwangi, better known as Softie, is a photojournalist in Kenya. Tired of the violence he sees around him and the way that politicians, including the president, refuse to do anything to actually address much-needed reforms, he decides to become a candidate for a regional election. Getting local residents, who have become accustomed to his opponents and predecessors handing out money in order to attain their votes, to consider him worthy on his merits is an enormous uphill battle. Reports of colleagues and election officials being murdered threaten to derail Boniface’s optimism, and very real death threats force his family to leave the country while he continues his campaign, determined to forge ahead to achieve true progress.

There has been a recent spotlight in documentary films like “Surge,” “Knock Down the House,” and “Running with Beto” on a number of progressive Americans eager to become lawmakers and facing nearly impossible odds. Those stories are absolutely worth telling, but the stakes just don’t compare to what Boniface must endure merely to have the chance to begin chipping away at established traditions of bribery and malignant complacency. Boniface knows that he puts his family at risk by stepping into the public eye, and he has no way to ensure their safety other than keeping them far from him in the United States, something that is not emotionally tenable.

There is a realness to this film that comes across from its opening moments, with footage of violence in Kenya and the history of its government serving to underscore the seriousness of Boniface’s undertaking. Nothing about what he is doing is glamorized or framed in an overly optimistic manner, and interviews with his wife, Njeri, are particularly enlightening because of the supportive but extremely cautious attitude she conveys as she watches with trepidation every new obstacle that emerges. This film is a strong and stirring look at a world many of its viewers could never truly imagine and one man within it set on making it better.


No comments: