This entertaining Kenyan documentary about a political activist-cum-family man running for election is tightly-constructed and highly-illuminating as it explores how politics is synonymous with corruption and violence, but also the desire for change.
Dir. Sam Soko
2020 | Kenya | Documentary | 96 mins | 1.85:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language
Plot: Political activist Boniface “Softie” Mwangi runs for office in a regional Kenyan election, which puts pressure on his young family and his convictions.
Awards: Won Editing Award – World Cinema Documentary (Sundance)
International Sales: Eye Steel Film
Subject Matter: Moderate – Politics, Family
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
A winner of the Editing Award for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, Softie is a tightly-constructed piece of work that brings us into the heart of politics in Kenya. Kenyan films or films about Kenya rarely make it to Singapore, so Softie is as eye-opening as it gets.
Also considering that Singapore’s politics is very much conservative and peaceful, plus political activism is mostly shunned here like the plague, Sam Soko’s highly-illuminating work does jolt us awake by showing us what it feels like to be someone running for election in a country where extrajudicial killings aren’t a rare thing.
The focus here is on Boniface Mwangi, who’s best known for his pictures documenting violence in Kenya after the 2007 elections. Despite being a family man with a loving wife and kids in tow, he decides to run for office in hopes of being elected as a Member of Parliament.
“We have a right to protest.”
While politics has been synonymous with corruption and violence, it is also about the desire for change, and Boniface very much walks that talk, despite death threats aimed at him and his family.
Soko has made an entertaining film with a rhythm and momentum of its own; it’s compelling and some of the finest moments come when he centres his camera on Boniface’s wife as she reveals her feelings being a wife to a man who as he puts it wants to “topple the government.”
Softie also manages to give us enough context to Kenya’s dirty politics and colonial history so that the humanity of Boniface, in contrast, feels like a real sense of hope.
There are some tense moments of street fracas and violence between citizens and the police that add to the film’s urgency and relevance. Political change is not merely a want; it’s a necessity in some places in the world.