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Patrick Mureithi hopes to finish a documentary about the post-election violence that occurred in Kenya in late 2007 and early 2008 and how some people are moving forward with their lives, despite the violence. He says 1200 people were left dead and half a million people were displaced during the period of unrest.
“I traveled back to Kenya in November and December of last year and visited Kenya’s largest slum. I interviewed people who had fled for their lives after the presidential elections because of their tribe or their political affiliation. I also interviewed those who burned property and attacked and killed people as well. I’m trying to raise funds to travel back to Kenya in May so I can film these victims and perpetrators coming together in reconciliation workshop. My intent is to make a documentary that shows it is possible for victims and perpetrators to address their issues in a non-violent way. The documentary is called “Kenya: Until Hope is Found.” I have my project on a website called Kickstarter.com.”
This is not new ground for Mureithi. He made a previous documentary that examined reconciliation efforts in post-genocide Rwanda.
“What inspired this documentary was my previous documentary which is about the Rwanda genocide, and a gathering of 10 survivors and 10 perpetrators of the genocide. When I had the chance to show this documentary, which is called “Icyizere: Hope” in Kenya in 2008, after the violence had occurred and last year in November and December, everyone who watched the film said, yes, this is about Rwanda, but the same circumstances that led to genocide in Rwanda are very similar to what led to the post-election violence in Kenya, in terms of the violence being politically motivated, the use of propaganda, roadblocks being set up where your ID determined whether you lived or died, neighbor turning on neighbor when they used to borrow sugar from each other—countless people traumatized. I was inspired by that. I felt that the media has been used to divide and destroyed—there are many examples where print and media propaganda was used, but it can also be used to unite and heal. So, I’m trying to show these examples that many in Kenya can watch and realize it is possible to overcome our trauma in a constructive way as opposed to engaging in poor pain management such as addiction, the number one cause of aggravated assault and suicide are stress and anxiety. I’m trying to show examples of people who are taking ownership of their stress and anxiety and are working toward true forgiveness, which can’t happen until we grieve what has happened to us.”
Mureithi says there’s a sense of urgency to this project because he wants to have a finished film ready to show in Kenya before elections happen later this year.
“Kenya is facing a very precarious situation. The violence that happened in 2007 and 2008, that Kofi Annan and other international players had to come into the country and mediate a power-sharing agreement. Genocide Watch, which is an international alliance to end genocide, classified Kenya as being in Stage 6, the preparation stage for genocide. The next stage is genocide. Very few people have gotten the help they need in terms of psychological help, processing what has happened. One of the symptoms of trauma is hyper-vigilance, the feeling like this is not going to happen to me again, looking over the shoulder. That’s a very dangerous combination, when you have hyper-vigilance, easy access to guns and other weapons, and a desire for revenge.”
Mureithi says he wants to help put an end to the cycle of violence that feeds off the desire for revenge.
“What is needed is definitely not repeated cycles of violence. No human wants repeated cycles of violence. People want serenity, opportunity for them and their loved ones. But to get there, we have to look at how this has affected us in a safe environment, be able to ventilate our feelings, be able to sit with them and process them in a healthy way so that we can grow in emotional awareness and emotional intelligence. In my opinion, emotional intelligence is the number one intelligence to have because then we can deal with life. We can deal with the ups and downs of life. This is not about the Kenya story, it’s about the human story, about the need to forgive so we can move on with our lives. The number one malady in Africa is not a lack of intelligence, a lack of resourcefulness, or a desire for repeated cycles of violence. The greatest malady in Africa is unresolved psychological trauma. That is the greatest malady in Greene County, Missouri where we have the highest rates of domestic and child abuse. That is the great malady in my life, and in any human being’s life, yourself included, the unresolved issues that we fail to address that keep us from living up to our full potential. The power in media, especially in documentary filmmaking, is that, through storytelling, people can relate to the subjects in the film and they can realize that if they overcame this, there’s hope for me as well. That’s what I’m trying to do: inspire hope and encourage dialogue.”
Mureithi says to do that, he will get his finished film into the hands of Kenyans.
“I’m going to give copies of the film to all the TV stations in Kenya. I’m going to have the film available online for free—a high resolution download. When I go to Kenya, I’m going to share the film with duplication houses, pirates. I’m going to go to them with high resolution copies of the DVD and say, ‘Have at it.’ Then, the film will become available on every street corner. So, any Kenyan can buy it cheap and take it home to watch it. I want people to watch it. Some will say it’s nonsense but some will say, ‘That’s me. These people are brave enough to face their pain. They’re getting their lives back.’ If someone sees that, they’ll ask, ‘What do I have to do to get that?’
Mureithi hopes to raise funds for his next trip to Kenya by April 15th.