Lost Soulz [Tribeca Film Festival Review]

Lost Soulz is like the Oscar-winning Nomadland with rap music. The film doesn’t have an abundance of plot. Instead, it follows its protagonist through a life-changing journey, told not through big dramatic moments but rather through observing him in a series of authentic situations that gradually shape the person he will become. Writer/director Katherine Propper makes an impressive debut with this music-based drama, which had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.

Sol (Sauve Sidle) is an aspiring rapper who sells drugs on the side. He attends a house party with his best friend Wesley (Siyanda Stillwell), who overdoses during the evening. Rather than staying with him, Sol accepts an offer he receives from a group of touring hip-hoppers he meets that night. They’re Texas-bound to perform a series of gigs. During the trek across the Lone Star state – and eventually to Los Angeles – raps are improvised in the back of the van, marijuana is smoked, and Sol has to come to grips with the fact that he abandoned the person who is like a brother to him.

Much of Lost Soulz shows Sol and his new cohorts bonding over their beats and shooting music videos. They visit cheesy Texas tourist attractions like the Prada Marfa and the roadside James Dean/Giant display. For a while, the character finds inspiration in being part of this group, especially after a triumphant concert performance. Then he begins to realize that his true inspiration came from life back home, and partying on the road isn’t necessarily all it's cracked up to be. Guilt over leaving Wesley behind weighs on him, as well. If he's willing to sell out a friendship for a shot at fame, what kind of person does that make him?

Propper uses 16mm film to convey Sol’s memories with Wesley and key moments on the tour, then utilizes vertical cell phone footage for some of the performance scenes to illustrate the importance of social media for emerging artists. She gets natural performances from her cast of hip-hoppers. Their interactions together are so real that you occasionally feel like you’re watching a documentary. Impromptu musical numbers occur in the van, at clubs, and at places like a skate park. Even if you think you don’t like rap music, the enthusiasm the cast carries the songs out with is infectious.

Lost Soulz is definitely an introspective film. You have to watch Sol and his companions carefully, noticing the dynamics between them in order to grasp what Popper is going for. If you can get on that wavelength – and I certainly did – this is a smart, penetrating look at how a young rapper figures out his identity.

out of four

Lost Soulz is unrated, but contains strong language and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.