The Global Search for Education: Creator Evan Pretzer on Box Girl and the Transformative Power of Boxing in Nairobi’s Slums

C. M. Rubin
3 min readSep 15, 2023

This month, audiences can screen Box Girl on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated for the Planet Classroom Network by Planet Classroom.

Produced in 2015 Box Girl takes place in the Nairobi slum of Kariobangi in Kenya. Box Girls is an organization that works through boxing to instill self-confidence in girls living in slums throughout Nairobi, shaping them into the next generation of community leaders. Box Girl follows Sonko, one of the earliest Box Girls participants who boxed her way onto the Kenyan national women’s boxing team.

Today the Box Girls organization continues to create a world where women and girls lead dignified lives in secure communities. Evan Pretzer was only 20 when he worked on the film. Today he joins us to reflect on the experience.

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Evan Pretzer.

Evan Box Girl takes viewers on a captivating journey through the boxing gym and the vibrant neighborhood of Nairobi. Can you share your experience of filming on location in Kariobangi and how it influenced the storytelling?

At the time I was 20, I didn’t exactly have a clue what I was doing but I do recall how even in an area experiencing a tough time, people never lost their humanity and decency and I wanted that to be present on the screen with Sonko’s journey with the sport.

Box Girl and Sonko’s story are both inspiring and powerful. What personal experiences of encounters motivated you to create a film about their journey?

Honestly, I cannot remember. Since this time in my life, I have experienced a great deal of personal stress and so it is hard for me to recollect. Best I can guess, some of it comes from my dad’s prior work as a policeman. The stories he would tell me taught me how to empathize with others, and that comes through in the work.

Working with Sonko must have been a unique and emotional experience. Can you describe what it was like to collaborate with her and how her story resonated with you? Were there any memorable moments during the filming process?

I think the most memorable thing for me was just being able to talk to someone who had a very different experience than I did growing up in Canada. For me, what stands out was seeing where she lived and meeting with her family.

Box Girl delivers a strong message of hope and dedication. What impact do you hope the film will have on its audience, and who do you think will be most affected by its powerful narrative?

I think impact is subjective, so I cannot really say I hope for anything. As far as who I hope comes away feeling something from this, I want young men and women who may be struggling to know they can hit the mountaintop. Though it may seem hard, anything is possible.

Thank you Evan!

C.M. Rubin with Evan Pretzer

Don’t Miss Box Girl, now streaming on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated by Planet Classroom.

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