2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: SOFTIE

SOFTIE | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sam Soko

SOFTIE
Sam Soko chronicles the personal and professional challenges facing an idealistic Kenyan political activist as he decides to run for office.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

Country:
Kenya

Sundance Program Description:

Boniface “Softie” Mwangi has long fought injustices in his country as a political activist. Now he’s taking the next step by running for office in a regional Kenyan election. From the moment Boniface decides to run, telling his wife, Njeri, in passing with a hesitant laugh, he responds to each challenge with optimism. But running a clean campaign against corrupt opponents becomes increasingly harder to combat with idealism alone. And Boniface soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk. Should country really come before family, as he’s always believed?

Director Sam Soko captures a charming idealist’s transformation through his grassroots campaign, while exploring the complexities of balancing Boniface’s deep love of country with the needs of his family. Moments with Njeri and their children deepen our understanding of the aspiring elected official, offering introspective respites from the turbulent pace of the campaign. Though set against the backdrop of a country in transition, Soko’s film goes beyond politics to reveal what fuels one activist’s need to push for change.

Some Background:

Director/Producer/Editor/Writer:

  • Sam Soko

    Soko is co-founder of Nairobi-based production company LBx Africa. He received support from the Sundance Institute | Luminate Fund and the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund for this project, his debut documentary feature. Soko also is one of the film’s cinematographers.

Producer:

  • Toni Kamau

    Kamau is a Kenyan factual content producer and the founder of We are not the machine, which focuses on global stories of outsiders, rebels, and change-makers. This is her first Sundance project.

Executive Producers:

  • Bob Moore
    Past Sundance docs:

    ANOTE’S ARK (2018)
    TOKYO IDOLS (2017)
    CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (2012)
    LAST TRAIN HOME (2010)

    Moore is the Emmy-winning co-president of acclaimed Montreal documentary production company EyeSteelFilm. He also executive produced fellow 2020 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition title INFLUENCE and New Frontier exhibition CHOMSKY VS CHOMSKY: FIRST ENCOUNTER.

  • Sandra Whipham
    Past Sundance docs:

    COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD (2019, via Bertha Foundation)
    THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT (2016)
    DIRTY WARS (2013)
    ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE (2010)
    AFGHAN STAR (2009)

    The Emmy-winning Whipham is director of Doc Society.

  • Marjon Javadi
    Past Sundance docs:

    WAITING FOR HASSANA (2017, associate producer)

    Javadi is senior manager, film funds and partnerships for Doc Society.

  • Justine Nagan
    Past Sundance docs:

    AMERICA TO ME (2019)
    MINDING THE GAP (2019)
    STRONG ISLAND (2017)
    MOTHERLAND (2017)
    QUEST (2017)
    LIFE ITSELF (2014)
    THE INTERRUPTERS (2011)

    The Emmy-winning Nagan is the executive director of American Documentary, whose long-running POV series on PBS frequently includes Sundance alumni as part of its lineup.

  • Chris White
    Past Sundance docs:

    MINDING THE GAP
    QUEST (2017)
    HOOLIGAN SPARROW (2016)
    PERVERT PARK (2015)
    LOVE FREE OR DIE (2012)
    BLUE VINYL

    White is the executive producer of American Documentary/POV.

  • Mandy Chang
    Past Sundance docs:

    ADVOCATE (2019)
    ONE CHILD NATION (2019)
    COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD

    Chang is the Commissioning Editor for BBC’s long-running Storyville strand.

  • Jess Search
    Past Sundance docs:

    COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD (via Bertha Foundation)
    WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? (2013)
    DIRTY WARS
    THE END OF THE LINE (2009)
    THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD (2009)
    UNKNOWN WHITE MALE (2005)

    The Emmy-nominated Search is chief executive of Doc Society. She previously was a commissioning editor for Channel 4, and founded Shooting People. Search also executive produced fellow 2020 Sundance doc WELCOME TO CHECHNYA, in the US Documentary Competition.

  • Daniel Cross
    Past Sundance docs:

    ANOTE’S ARK
    TOKYO IDOLS
    CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT
    LAST TRAIN HOME
    UP THE YANGTZE

    Cross is a co-founder of EyeSteelFilm, through which he has also won Emmy Awards. He also executive produced this year’s INFLUENCE.

  • Bramwel Iro

    Iro is co-founder of Nairobi-based production company LBx Africa.

Executive Producer/Editor:

  • Mila Aung-Thwin
    Past Sundance docs:

    ANOTE’S ARK
    TOKYO IDOLS
    CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT
    LAST TRAIN HOME
    UP THE YANGTZE

    The Emmy-winning Aung-Thwin is one of the founders of EyeSteelFilm. He also executive produced this year’s INFLUENCE.

Editor:

  • Ryan Mullins

    Mullins is a Canadian editor who has cut past EyeSteelFilm productions. He also edited INFLUENCE.

Why You Should Watch:
The filmmaking demonstrates an ease that underscores the production’s insider perspective in contrast to the Western gaze often brought to African stories. In addition, Soko is blessed with several charismatic subjects – not only Mwangi, but also his wife, as well as his campaign manager – to immediately invest the viewer and make the underdog candidate’s election story accessible to an international audience.

More Info:
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For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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