© X-Verleih/Warner Bros.

Soul Boy
Kenya/Germany 2010

Opening 2 Dec 2010

Directed by: Hawa Essuman
Writing credits: Billy Kahora
Principal actors: Samson Odhiambo, Leila Dayan Opou, Krysteen Savane, Frank Kimani, Joab Ogolla

This Kenyan/German feature film started off as a workshop by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer (known for Run Lola Run, Perfume and The International) teaching newcomers to the trade and lay-actors living in one of Nairobi’s larges slum. The entire action is filmed in Kibera, capturing the daily life in the township and reflecting society through the eyes of 14-year old Abi (Samson Olhiambo). He is determined to save his father’s soul, which has been snatched by a Nyawawa, a female spirit. His lovely teenage friend Shiku (Leila Dayan) helps him in this jungle of rudely built huts. The Nyawawa has to be faced but to follow all of her seven demands is not an easy task. Abi needs all his wit and courage to meet the challenge. Will he succeed in saving his father?

Billy Kahora wrote the script of magical realism, which is also a contemporary story of a young teenager growing up in Kibera. More than one million people live in a 3.5 square kilometre area in self-made wooden shacks, of which 600,000 are children. In this environment, the NGO Anno’s Africa started “Art Education for Children,” providing an opportunity for the youth to develop towards a self-determined future. This film is a big step towards this goal. It is the first film project realized by the all-African crew. The story has a few loose ends, but the acting is very convincing. As the viewer gets totally involved in the mystical atmosphere of the plot, the overall effect counts. It is a regional African story which can be enjoyed by children around the globe as it is full of spontaneous ideas and coincidences. Abi’s uneasiness to be seen with a girl or wanting to prove his manhood and showing off his bravery is universal.

The Ghanian-Kenyan director Hawa Essuman and co-director Tom Tykwer won the Audience Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival. (Birgit Schrumpf)

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