My usual immediate reaction to films like this one that paint what feels like an all-too limited portrait of Africans in Africa, is usually a conflicted one – a simultaneous rejection and appreciation. On one hand, I tend to shy away from any new films (especially those made by non-Africans) that appear to focus on the usual stories (especially documentaries) about the continent, as in, war, poverty, famine, corruption etc – all fitting under the “problems of Africa” umbrella; But on the other hand, I do recognize the reality of these *problems*, and their right to be highlighted on film (as well as the filmmaker’s rights to tell a story that appeals to them), even though the medium itself is limiting in the sense that there’s only so much one can cover in a 90-minute to 2-hour block of time, and thus, at times, the story isn’t told in its entirety, which is unfair to both the subjects within the film, and the audience.
The danger of the single story… to quote author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.
Not to disparage the filmmakers. This is obviously a subject matter that they are interesting in and passionate about, and it’s a topic that’s very real and worthy of coverage. So I can’t say that this is a film that shouldn’t have been made. I’m just sharing my honest reactions, and calling for some balance, so that the next American or European filmmaker (as is often the case) who’s inspired to tell a story about “Africa” will maybe consider taking the road less traveled.
There is so much more to “Africa” that can be explored on film, but the fascination seems to remain on what is maybe considered an easier sell (to financiers and distributors, especially here in the west) – an image of Africa that the rest of the world seems to believe or accept as the dominant, or only one.
All that said, I’m still definitely curious to see this film in full. This glue-sniffing *phenomenon* by homeless Kenyan kids isn’t something that I can say that I’m very familiar with (we’ve certainly heard of similar occurrences here in the USA), so I’m sure there’s an education in it for me, which is always a good thing certainly!
Titled Tough Bond, from directors Austin Peck and Anneliese Vandenberg, it looks like an unsettling feature documentary (at least, based on the contents of the trailer below).
It’s described as follows:
Intimate documentary images and a radically honest look at Kenyan society. When cultural and family ties no longer exist, homeless children find comfort in sniffing glue. Tough Bond is a feature length documentary film about our irrepressible need as humans for family- no matter how tough it may be. We follow 4 kids who find family and a new identity as “Survivors”, living together on the streets of Kenya, huffing glue to endure the hell of street life.
It made its world premiere at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, and continued to travel the international film festival circuit, and I’ve been keeping tabs on it, so I can update you along the way. I’ve been informed today that the film will be released on VOD, next week Tuesday, May 6, 2014 on iTunes, Amazon, XBox, Playstation, etc. So look for it on any of those platforms, if the below trailer intrigues you enough to want to see the full film.
I’ll certainly give it a look myself, and share my thoughts afterward. I just might be pleasantly surprised.
Watch the trailer for Tough Bond: