Boniface “Softie” Mwangi uses his teeth to pry the lid off a toddler’s sippy cup while carrying on a phone conversation about an upcoming demonstration. “I think it’s good for us to get arrested,” he says. A few minutes later, Softie, a photo-journalist and anti-corruption activist, heads out the door. “Where are you going?” one of his kids ask. “To topple the government,” he replies.
Softie made his name with a series of harrowing photos of the violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. A decade later, after years of organizing, arrests, and police beatings, he decides to run for office, telling his wife, Njeri, about his decision on camera, with a hesitant laugh.
On the campaign trail in his inner-city district, Softie comes up against corruption and the expectation that candidates will hand out money and favors. One woman calls him a “broke idiot” when he refuses to bribe her for her vote. Meanwhile, he and his family receive death threats, forcing Njeri and the children to seek asylum in the US.
SOFTIE is the portrait of a committed activist, but it’s also about politics, family and what it means to be Kenyan. And it’s a gripping campaign film too. Director Sam Soko followed Softie for five years, as Softie’s activism tests their marriage and his ability to be present for their kids. Is winning worth any price?