Directed by Austin Peck & Anneliese Vandenberg
Tough Bond is a fantastic but utterly crushing documentary. A feeling of hopelessness permeates every aspect of the film, from the personal day-to-day struggles of the street children featured, to the broad societal implications of what today’s Kenya is like compared to just two generations prior. It’s a film that calls for action, but it’s also a film that presents its case so well, and with such powerful imagery, that by the end I, too, felt hopeless. The problems are not those that could be fixed quickly, and they would require the entire country’s involvement, not just a few humanitarian aid packages.
At the center of the film is a brand of glue called Tough Bond. It is a contact adhesive made in Kenya and sold throughout the country for various industries to use. But the street kids of the country have taken to huffing it to forget their problems, with the glue’s manufacturer estimating that the kids account for sales of roughly 15% of his product. That’s a huge amount of glue for a factory that produces 40 tons of the stuff, but the manufacturer doesn’t seem too bothered by it. He states that he doesn’t see any damage being done with his product in the kids’ lives, even going so far as to say that it has the positive effect of helping them sleep.