Boniface Mwangi, the daring and audacious man who has been recognized as one of Kenya’s most provocative photojournalists just released a powerful film documenting his activism journey and fighting for justice. At the heart of the film lies the tale of how Boniface, nicknamed “Softie” in his childhood years, has long fought injustices in Kenya and how that has affected his family and those around him. It’s a film that clearly depicts the sacrifices that the youth have to take to protect justice in the society.
He has to navigate the balance of being a father of three young children and still serving his country, creating a tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri Mwangi whose loyalty to her family is hard as a rock. It’s a story of perseverance and love, evoking mixed emotions while exploring the themes of family, sacrifice and patriotism.
The film chronicles a 7 year journey beginning with chaos filled street protests and culminating in Boniface’s decision to run for a political seat in his old neighborhood Starehe. He soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk. His wife, Njeri, has long been silent in the background. The decision to run put her and the family on the spot. This brings forth a central question that many of the world’s brightest and most effective change makers have had to ask themselves, ‘What comes first – family or country?’ A question that is very critical to the youth today in the pursuit to secure their future.
The film premiered at Sundance in January 2020, winning a special jury prize for editing. Softie was also the opening night film at the Hotdocs Film Festival and at the Human Rights Festival held in Berlin, where the film also won The Willy Brandt Documentary Award for Freedom and Human Rights on 10th Oct 2020. The film also bagged the award for Best Feature Documentary at the Lunenburg Doc Fest on 1st October 2020. The jury described the film as “a beautifully crafted and edited documentary that highlights the extraordinary dreams of a young Kenyan activist.” It has been greatly reviewed, citing its conscientious story telling of Kenya’s struggle with political tribalism.
It has since played at a couple of prestigious festivals including CPH:DOX, Full Frame and even won Best Film at the Encounters International Documentary Festival and Best Documentary at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2020. The DIFF win means that “SOFTIE” now qualifies for consideration for the Oscar documentary shortlist for the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The next ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California on April 25, 2021.
Boniface encourages all Kenyans to go watch the film. “It’s a very important film for Kenyans to watch because it shows what happens behind the scenes in an activist’s family life and their daily struggles,” noting, “It took seven years in the making”. For Njeri Mwangi, having their private family life on screen has been a difficult and rewarding experience. She says, “This film is not just a single story but the story of what women and mothers and wives like myself give to the cause of what they too believe in but whose contribution is not counted as significant or acknowledged as prominently as their partners. It has given me a voice and hopefully a chance for women to see themselves and count their contributions to the betterment of not only their families but also their communities and country.