Amnesia, Kenya and the Mau Mau: documentary

The question of national amnesia – the defensive forgetting to avoid traumatic national history — strikes me as central to the condition of humans in this era.

Getting at what you (or someone else) has forgotten is a rough path filled with the potential for hurt feelings and self-defensive justification.

I appreciate the contribution by the National Film Board of Canada who released the documentary: A time there was: stories from the last days of Kenya colony.

British national service and colonialism send a young man (the film’s creator and narrator McWilliams) to Kenya where he photographs the people and the scenery of the land.   It isn’t simple.  He doesn’t simply travel back to get that souvenir connection at the end of his days, instead he layers his own admittedly faulty memory with the films and images of Kenya under colonial rule.  A Mau Mau forest fighter is given healthy space to describe the politics of the time from the militant perspective, and a colonial governor gets screen time.   Both contribute to the sense of deepening — counter forgetting, marking in space and time.

This film helps to get at the process of forgetting/obscuring.  I also points at the potential for uncovering and exposing those pieces missing.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this film enough.  It is up on the National Film Board website in full for a few more days.

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Filed under documentary, human rights, media

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