By ALLY JAMAH
As we head to the next General Election, perhaps Kenyans and their leaders need a powerful reminder of the lessons of the last poll that was scarred by horrific ethnic violence.
And that is exactly what a new film that premiered in the country mid this week does.
The documentary, Brother Time: A Kenyan Tale of Violence and Humanity, produced by researchers from the University of Nairobi and that of Louisiana (USA) is a mythic story of the relationship between two neighbours, Wainaina and Mutai, whose friendship turns into visceral enmity when the post-election violence breaks out.
Told entirely in the words of Kenyans who lived it, the peace-making film graphically depicts the startling historical episode when suddenly it clearly was not “brother time”.
Filmed during and immediately after the election, the documentary explores the roots of tribal conflict during a journey through the Rift Valley.
Rift Valley was one of the hotspots of the chaos, thanks mainly to unresolved historical injustices that had fuelled resentments among communities living there.
“There was never a time when I thought that I would sleep in the cold. I wasn’t prepared. But it’s better to sleep in the cold than to be killed. You have not seen death with your own eyes,” recalls Wainaina.
In the film, Wainana remembers the times he helped his neighbour search for missing cows and that his neighbor’s mother liked him because he was always there for her son.
At the premier of the film at the Nairobi Safari Club on Wednesday, the audience invited to watch the documentary was gripped by the raw display of the horror that always unhinged the bolts of Kenya’s nationhood.
Together with the raw events that happened on the ground, the documentary is interspersed with seven running commentaries from scholars and researchers who put the events in context.
The documentary was produced and directed by Wesley Shrum, a Professor of Sociology at Louisiana State University who has also worked in Kenya. The co-producer, Dr Paul Mbatia, is Chairman of the Sociology Department, University of Nairobi.
Shrum says the idea of the documentary hit home when they were travelling in the Rift Valley and they had given a lift to Wainaina.
“The issue of post-election violence came up and someone kept asking Wainaina what he saw during the height of the violence. He was so graphic that I felt a chill in my spine. We thought this needed to be shared with others,” he says.
The film climaxes with Wainaina returning to his old farm and shaking hands with his neighbour and their families.
The documentary also skillfully explores the common stereotypes held against different communities.
The documentary is set to be featured in various film festivals including Black Hills Film Festival, Macon Film Festival and Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival among others.
The film has been adopted by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission for peace-building efforts in the run-up to the upcoming General Election.