Tribeca 2023 Review: A Musician Tries to Stay True to His Voice in Katherine Propper’s “Lost Soulz”

“Can we take you somewhere?” Nina (Krystal Poppin) asks Sol (Sauve Sidle) innocently enough after a house party in “Lost Soulz” that just been broken up by the police. Nina may have helped the musician get out of an arrest, telling an officer that he’s with the band after attendees are lined up with cuffs at the frat house where drugs were floating around and noise ordinances were surely flouted, but the bigger favor she seems to have done is to actually introduce him to the collective of rappers she acts as a manager for, if they were to use such titles, and when they’re on a tour across Texas, he’s offered the split-second opportunity to join them when they need a new hype man, hardly expecting what should’ve been a ride home to lead him so far away, for better or worse.

That’s really about all the plot there is driving Katherine Propper’s absorbing debut when it’s more engaging as a vibe, bursting with impromptu performances inside the van as the group of musicians pass the time on the road in between gigs and their proper songs are woven into the film, accompanying scenes of open landscapes full of possibility, but the crew’s humble transport seems capable of only taking them so far. Really, this is all Sol wanted as he tells his new friends, “Smokin’, chillin’, and making music” is the dream and it doesn’t sound like slumming, clearly having experienced more than he should’ve had to endure this early in his life with absent parents and occasional jail time for the weed dealing he’s done to get by.

There’s a nagging sense of guilt when jumping into van means leaving Wesley (Siyanda Stillwell), the friend who has taken Sol in to live with his mother Belinda (Kendra Franklin) and sister Jessie (Giovahnna Gabriel) while the two try to get his music career off the ground, but he finds himself amongst others who sing or rap for reasons that are practical as much as creatively fulfilling, knowing of no other avenue to some kind of meaningful life when a dead-end job would not only be soul crushing but unlikely to lift them out of poverty. Although the film radiates a specific brand of millennial angst, Propper isn’t one to wallow in it as the tour really becomes an adventure, dipping into a wildlife reserve where seeing zebras and camels seems genuinely eye opening to the gang raised in the city and they find their flow together as they start making music without necessarily knowing the next words, with the excitement evident of strangers suddenly speaking the same language.

Throughout “Lost Soulz,” it’s the singer more than the song that delivers, reflected both in front of the camera where Soundcloud tracks may not be polished but passionate and behind it when Propper shows keen instincts towards capturing performances along with cinematographer Donald Monroe and eliciting naturally charismatic turns from a largely nonprofessional cast. Recognizing the rainbow-haired Sidle as a star, it becomes a compelling question what it would take for the rest of the world to acknowledge his alter ego as such when he’s a commanding presence on stage but has little control over his life off of it as well as what success might take from him when staying in touch with how his life is now serves him well for inspiration. He isn’t the only one to take something raw and find the resonance in it in “Lost Soulz,” which sees a number of promising artists going places.

“Lost Soulz” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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