Incredibly depressing

Tough Bond does what many great documentaries do — it lets the participants talk for themselves and there is no narration.  In this case, those that talk and share their stories are mostly children—and are among the most pathetic children you could ever see.  The film shows various groups of kids throughout various parts of Kenya and what it shows is very disturbing.  The main focus is on orphans who spend their times huffing glue, though you also see kids who live in the garbage dumps, some who are living with HIV as well as areas experiencing famine.  It’s a thoroughly hopeless and depressing film—and the filmmakers do a great job of pulling at your heart.

Tough Bond
Directed by
Austin Peck & Anneliese Vandenberg
Release Date
Martin’s Grade: B+

The glue-inhalers apparently do so because the glue is so cheap and getting high takes their minds off their hunger and gives them a strange sense of community.  So, they walk about all day stumbling and in a stupor—with a bottle shoved in their mouth so they can constantly inhale the fumes.  You never really learn what the long-term consequences of this will be and the kids seemed to care very little about the future.  Sadly, interspersed among these touching scenes are interviews with the guy who manufactures the stuff and he quickly acknowledges that kids use it as an inhalant but also seems to think it’s not his problem but the government’s.

And, he then goes on to say that it’s not doing them any harm and it’s actually GOOD for them—as it keeps them from fighting or causing problems!  As for the government’s response, the film doesn’t show much other than one official who talks about all the good they’ve done with poor children—though the many interviews with the kids would seem to indicate the opposite.

You do wonder if, perhaps, no one really cares about these drugged up kids because it apparently makes them very mellow and docile.  The film doesn’t mention it, but Kenya is also known as a ‘kleptocracy’—one of many nations where those that work for the government are often corrupt and get rich while the masses are impoverished.

I admired the work the filmmakers did and the trouble they took to interview all these people.  My reason for scoring it a B+, however, is that the film never once talks about any solution nor does it indicate whether the starving kids who told their stories got any help or if they were compensated for their time and trouble.  In other words, it does a great job showing us the problem—but it never really mentions what can or should be done with these wretched kids.  This is an odd omission to say the least.  Worth seeing and well made but very, very tough to watch.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer