new wave

Is this the year of the African documentary?

By Wilfred Okiche

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on June 17, 2021 08:51

Award-winning Kenyan documentary spotlights toll of activist’s anti-corruption crusade in Nairobi
Kenyan social-political activist Boniface Mwangi arrives for the screening of the Kenyan documentary ‘Softie’ at the Prestige Cinema in Nairobi, Kenya October 16, 2020. Picture taken October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya – RC2ZMJ9KCX17

With the global success of films like ‘Softie’ and the Oscar winning ‘My Octopus Teacher’, could the documentary format be entering boom season?

The highest grossing Kenyan film in theatres last year was a documentary.

Softie, an energetic profile of famed photojournalist turned political activist Boniface Mwangi premiered at the Sundance film festival where it won a special jury award for editing. Even though its festival rollout was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Softie stayed the course, playing several online festivals and picking up a few more awards along the way. The Sam Soko directed docu-thriller eventually arrived Kenyan theatres for a limited release sometime in October.

Despite critical acclaim and international support, exhibitors in Kenya were not enthused about Softie’s box office chances. Soko recalls, “They took a chance and allowed us screen [time] for two weeks, but we were eventually in theatres for eight weeks. No mean feat.”

Growing success from Africa

Softie’s overperformance reflects a trend of

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime