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Local Filmmaker Hopes Documentary Will Help Kenyans Deal With Trauma Caused By Violence

Patrick Mureithi
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Mureithi

The opening scenes of Patrick Mureithi’s documentary “Kenya:  Until Hope is Found” grab you—shocking video of people’s homes and livelihoods torn away by fires that were purposely set along with firsthand accounts of the affects of the violence following the declaration in December 2007 of Mwai Kibaki as winner of the Presidential elections…

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The documentary focuses on Kenya five years after the violence broke out.  Victims and perpetrators have gathered for a three-day workshop where they learned about trauma, trust and ways to begin to heal from their trauma…

"My motivation in making this film was to share the message with Kenyans and people around the world that it is possible to heal from trauma, and if we want to have a culture of peace,  we absolutely must address and resolve trauma," he said.

Mureithi hopes the film will help prevent Kenyans from taking part in violence after this year’s presidential election—set for March 4th…

"What I hope is that people can watch the film and they can see severely traumatized men and women who are beginning to heal from their trauma, and they can be motivated to look at their own lives, to look at the trauma in their lives and to begin to address this trauma because if we do not address this trauma on a personal level it continues to perpetuate in our lives and our relationships with our loved ones.  But on a national level it continues in terms of repeated cycles of violence," he said.

Mureithi says Kenya’s new constitution is a “very big step,” but he fears the trauma that’s still not dealt with could lead to further violence in March.  He says Kenya has only one psychiatrist for every half a million people.  That’s why he hopes, by watching “Kenya:  Until Hope is Found,” Kenyans will learn ways to heal on their own.

The filmmaker in residence at Drury University travelled to his home country last November and December to try to get his documentary into the hands of as many people as possible.  He decided the best way to do that was to distribute copies of the DVD to pirates…

"I did that because the pirates have the best distribution system in the country.  I mean, once the duplicators get ahold of Hollywood films or local music, they then make copies and they give them to their vendors, and their vendors are all around the country, right, there are vendors on many street corners.  I knew that if I gave them a copy of my film, which I did for free and I told them to distribute it as widely as they want to--all the profit is theirs, I knew that they then would have the incentive to distribute it throughout the country," he said.

Mureithi also held showings of the film including in Kiberra, a slum that was hit hard by the violence in 2007 and 2008.  It’s that neighborhood that’s featured in Mureithi’s documentary…

"We rented a hall.  It was packed. We showed the entire documentary.   Everyone there was really appreciative of the film.  Everyone commented on the timeliness of the film and the importance of it, and a lot of the participants in the workshop attended the screening of the film.  And many of themtalked about how, you know, since the workshop, since they have been using some of these stress relief techniques, the qualities of their lives have changed," he said.

If Mureithi hadn’t yet realized the impact of his film, he did so last November when film critic Roger Ebert tweeted about it…

"Roger Ebert called the film, 'an urgent documentary by a filmmaker I admire,'" he said.

Mureithi says, since then, he’s been in touch with Ebert through e-mail, and the film critic donated to Mureithi’s trip in the fall.

He plans to return to Kenya next month to further promote his documentary through the media. 

A screening of the film and a discussion with the filmmaker will be held Monday January 21stat 6 pm at the Moxie.  A portion of the proceeds will go toward Mureithi’s return trip to Kenya next month.  To make a donation to help pay for the trip, visit josiahfilms.com/donate