Soul Boy 2010

  • Country Kenya/Germany
  • Production Year 2010
  • Language Swahili with English subtitles
  • Duration 61 minutes
  • Source The Festival Agency

Nairobi, Kenya. 14 year-old Abila lives with his parents in Kibera, one of the largest slums in East Africa. One morning the teenager discovers his father ill and delirious. Someone has stolen his soul, mumbles the father as he sits huddled in a corner. Abila is shocked and confused but wants to help his father and goes in search of a suitable cure. Supported by his friend Shiku who is the same age as him, he learns
that his father has gambled his soul away in the company of a spiritual woman. The teenager doesn’t want to believe it and sets about looking for the witch.

When he finally discovers her in the darkest corner of the ghetto, she gives him seven challenging tasks to save his father’s lost soul. Abila embarks on an adventurous journey which leads him right through the microcosm of his home town.

Showing with the short film PUMZI.

Screenings Book your ticket today

Arts Picturehouse

03:00 pm Saturday 25th September 2010

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Festival Daily wrote

SOUL BOY is a coming-of-age allegory set in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. It explores concepts of growing up through an interesting (if limiting) plot device. Abila’s father is found one morning in a bit of a state, claiming he has lost his soul. A bit of snooping around reveals that his father went to see a prostitute the previous evening: a witch with the leg of a cow and a vendetta against men since her husband left her. In order to restore his father’s soul, the witch sets Abila seven tasks. From this fantastical beginning the plot then becomes rooted in the daily reality of life in Kibera. Abila must pay another man’s debt without stealing, help someone in need and return someone’s property along with other stereotypical ‘good deeds’. The story is admirably concise and well structured but strays into a patronising lesson in citizenry at times.

However, the film fuses the fantastical with the real to good effect, in some ways reminiscent of the strategy at work in PAN’S LABYRINTH. This rescues the film from becoming just another feel-good fib. The frame of magic installs doubt in proceedings – perhaps the good-fortune in Abila’s journey is meant merely as an idealised model of virtuous behaviour to counteract the model of malice shown through the witch’s actions. Regardless of these broader meditations on the film’s message, it is certainly well paced and assuredly made, using the screen-time effectively and succinctly in Hawa Essuman’s debut feature.

Chris Stefanowicz

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