Tough Bond (2013)

Tough Bond
Director: Austin Peck, Anneliese Vandenberg
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Tough Bond is a documentary that takes a look at the lives of four kids in Kenya who all have poverty and a glue sniffing addiction in common. The film tries to give an impression of their struggles over a few years as well as their sense of community.

Unsurprisingly, Tough Bond – the name, by the way, of the locally produced brand of glue – isn’t a very uplifting film. But it is an interesting look at a generation that seems quite at a loss and has very few options.

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What stood out for me the most in this film was the infuriating lack of help for these kids. You’ve got an interview with a government who flat out states that there used to be a problem with glue huffing but they dealt with it and now there are no more homeless and/or addicted kids. You have the glue producer who not only takes no responsibility for where and how his product is used; he actually refuses to believe that there is any harm in huffing anyway. And then you have the local carpenter who uses the glue for his work and also sells it on. He looks into the camera and says that he never sells to kids. The next few minutes of the film are filled with scenes – filmed from afar – where he does just that.

The only one who seems to care what happens to those children is a social worker who is interviewed for a bit. But she’s obviously overwhelmed by her care for the kids and the generation. Personally, I would have loved to get a bit more time with her (but that might just be because I work for an organization that does social work in Vienna and so that perspecitve is of course particularly interesting to me), especially because she was the only one with a few thoughts for those kids.

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I really enjoyed getting to know those kids as well and walking a bit with them. That also makes the blows they are dealt that much harder to stomach. And the movie is at its strongest when it juxtaposes those blows and hardships with their spirit, longing and hard work to live the best life they can.

The only thing were the film falls a little flat was to make a connection with the images they show at the beginning and the end of the film of a rather rural community. I’m asusming that those images were put there to show the poverty and why the kids would leave for the cities. But that does feel like a bit of tenuous interpretatory stretch on my part. And there was also a slight tinge of “in the olden days, everything was better” to those moments, which I doubt a whole lot – both that it was the case and that was their intention. Though I generally liked that there was no overt commentary, I could have done with a bit more explicitness here.

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Summarizing: very interesting.

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