By Monica Obaga, Buni.tv
Abila’s father wakes up muttering about losing his soul. Fearing for his life, the 14 year old goes to the only person that can help, the witch everyone thinks has it. She gives him seven tasks that he must complete to save his father, leading to an adventure that will change his life.
Soul Boy is a drama with comedic elements. The seven tasks and the use of the sun motif as signposts keep the pace lively. The young teens in the film see magic where the adults do not, adding an interesting parallel between the real and surreal that could be argued to be a matter of perspective. Without the surrealism, the race and class themes would seem heavy-handed and slow down the film.
The dialogue in the film, especially in the first act, has slightly awkward delivery. This is a lesson the producers have since learned. The dialogue in their sophomore production, Nairobi Half Life was quite conversational and authentic.
Leila Opou’s Shiku is self-assured and wise for her age. Her presence is the audience’s in and a clear marker of Abila’s growth. Samson Odhiambo’s Abila is stoic but slightly insecure. His character’s transformation from the beginning to the end of the film is remarkable for such a young performer. It’s a rare treat to see a young Kenyan couple’s relationship play out on film, and the writing and performances are quite believable and sweet. Abila’s friends bring a lot of energy and fun, while Krysteen Savane’s witch brings a mystery and danger that gives the film much of its surrealism and gravitas. The cinematography shows Kibera as a familiar space with gentle, steady pans and aerials with steadicam footage of people in conversation, creating a sense of intimacy. This is worth noting because the film sidesteps the typical ‘slum porn’ associated with Kibera, choosing instead, to focus on the universal.
Soul Boy is ultimately a coming of age story, which begins with Abila running to his
mother for help and ends with him choosing to face his greatest fear.
A definite must watch for the whole family!
Watch Soul Boy on Buni+