The Dissident

Written by Taylor Baker

16/100

Bryan Fogel’s follow up to Icarus is a sprawling reduction of its subject with enough drone footage and shiny Twitter animations to make sure you don’t forget it was made at some point in the last three years. Investigative Journalism at it’s best boils down essential pieces of data as well as general facts and research then presents them all coherently in a digestible way. Unfortunately this documentary about an investigative journalist is a far cry from that standard. Like a microwave meal it is more manufactured than created, and once you’re done with it you feel worse than when you started. Not because it was impactful, but because it was vapid.

The Dissident presents us with a lot of emotions. Then it recreates unimportant events, throws in images of the ever polarizing Trump whenever it can, queues up some CG tweet recreations, and doesn’t focus itself squarely on anything but some circumstances Fogel is aware of. It goes for cheap emotionality instead of unwavering truth. 

I’m increasingly exhausted at these glossy documentaries with talking heads that have no purpose and are clearly just padding their resumes and attempting to create a positive image. The definitive Khashoggi documentary has is not yet made. I could have just read this in an article, what a waste of all of our time.

The Dissident Trailer

The Dissident is currently available to rent or purchase digitally.

Softie

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

95/100

Documentaries like this one remind me why I do what I do (in my day job I work on public policy and policy development). This documentary tells the story of Boniface Mwangi a photojournalist turned activist trying to reshape politics and political life in Kenya. Throughout this piece we are reminded that Boniface, affectionately known as Boni or Softie, is a man with an undying love for Kenya and who is willing to put his life on the line for his country and ideals.

Boni’s love for country generates conflict in his family life. He engages in an interesting discussion with his wife, Njeri, about life’s priorities. Boni claims his priorities are country, God, and family. While his wife argues that God, family, and country should take precedence over politics. Boni’s and Njeri relationship is an enduring sign of their love as they try to find a balance between family life and political life.

Beyond this exploration of family and faith, the documentary discusses the stain British colonialism had and continues to have in Kenya. Boniface argued that “the British planted the seed of tribalism but the Kenyan government made it prosper.” This is the driving force that makes Boni fight for a better country.

When Boni decided to run for parliament he did not rely on bribes in exchange for votes. Instead, he wanted people to vote for him because of his principles and platform. Boni argued that he was trying to do “politics the right way.” Boni, along with his campaign manager, were able to raise 1.6 million shillings from individual donors which was unheard of in Kenya’s political world.

Even though Boni did not win the election his resolute fight for a better country is something that can inspire all of us. Boni’s story resonates outside the borders of Kenya. Undoubtedly, if everyone had one ounce of the relentless determination Boni has, in fighting for a better future, the world would be in a much better place. 

If you want to learn more about Boniface Mwangi you can click on these resources: Website, Twitter, TED, and Book.

Softie Trailer

Softie is currently available through virtual platforms.

Thanks to David Magdael & Associates for providing this film.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.