SIFF Says:Traffic in Kampala, Uganda is always gridlocked, and the fastest means of travel are motorbike taxis called ‘boda bodas’ that can efficiently weave in and out of traffic. City life has been challenging for Goodman, who has been hustling as a boda boda driver for years and still finds himself in debt to a local boss. When an accident befalls Goodman, the family turns its hope to aimless teen Abel to make enough to continue paying off the debt. On his first day driving, Abel and his crook buddy realize they can make a lot more money by stealing bags and cellphones off pedestrians than through honest rides. After the first day’s big take, though, Abel finds his boda boda stolen, setting him on a frantic scramble through the streets of Kampala to get the bike back before it is stripped and sold for parts. Ugandan director Donald Mugisha (THE KAMPALA STORY, SIFF 2013) has taken De Sica’s BICYCLE THIEVES as his inspiration to create a unique portrait of desperation filled with strong performances, a pulsing soundtrack, and an exceptional authenticity that makes audiences feel like they are amidst the calamity of this Ugandan metropolis.
The extremities of density and poverty in this homage to The Bicycle Thief
make it jarring to the modern American viewer. But Abel’s teenage restlessness, desire to be respected, and conflicted sense of self are universally relatable. This is not a happy film, but it is well worth your time. (KATIE ALLISON)
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