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Recensione: Our Land, Our Freedom


- Il documentario di Meena Nanji e Zippy Kimundu riscrive la storia del Kenya e le prospettive della rivolta Mau Mau degli anni '50

Recensione: Our Land, Our Freedom

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

How strange and uncanny it must be to have never known your father, but still have the opportunity to glimpse him in bronze-statue form, in a central square in your country’s capital. This is the predicament of Wanjugu Kimathi, the now middle-aged daughter of Kenyan revolutionary Dedan Kimathi, as compellingly captured in Meena Nanji and Zippy Kimundu’s documentary Our Land, Our Freedom. In what occasionally feels like a limitedly expository, campaigning doc, this detail is a flicker of personal resonance that helps it transcend being a generic accounting of facts and events. After an IDFA premiere and further showings at several non-fiction festivals, the film made its UK bow at Sheffield Doc/Fest last week.

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Our Land, Our Freedom, whose own title inadvisably shuns the particular in favour of a generalised call for liberation, is blessed with an utterly amazing story – still at a premium, considering the many documentaries we see – and whose spiralling significance to Kenya now dawns on the viewer gradually. With the film’s timeline commencing in 2016, Wanjugu is seen splitting her mundane job as an airport administrator with acting as a port of call for descendants of Mau Mau fighters (officially, the Kenya Land and Freedom Army) to locate their ancestors’ remains, and help agitate for an end to their ongoing displacement from colonially expropriated lands. A cut, accompanied by voice-over, takes her into an intimate, domestic realm where we’re afforded precious glimpses of her aged mother, Mukami, still seeking closure after Dedan, the movement's leader, was executed by British authorities in 1957. “I am from a freedom-fighter family,” Wanjugu’s narration states at this early stage in the film, and its subsequent chapters resoundingly build on this legacy.

As the years pass, with the narrative eventually taking us through the pandemic into 2023, Wanjugu’s time and efforts become further subsumed into the foundation bearing her father’s name, which the filmmakers (who are both Kenyan themselves) evidently collaborated closely with. While we track a lawsuit against the current government, demanding restitution for lands still unreturned to their past owners, we see Wanjugu’s crusade picking up the baton as a complementary movement to her parents’ own, with the decolonisation and apparent independence granted in 1963 actually far from finalised. She becomes subject to a smear campaign by the right-wing press, as well as police surveillance and spurious arrest charges, all while public and viral internet notoriety swells for her cause and charismatic addresses. Nanji and Kimundu’s portrayal of all this, fixating on the broad strokes and letting years of progress pass in efficient edits, risks coming across as a potted history suitable for a current-affairs magazine programme, yet they undoubtedly convey the electric relevance of the story, both for Kenya’s overdue reckoning with its past, and other post-facto responses to colonialism currently enlivening the whole Global South.

Our Land, Our Freedom is a co-production by Kenya, the USA, Portugal and Germany, staged by Twende Pictures, Afrofilms International, Muiraquitã Filmes and Autentika Films. Its world sales are handled by First Hand Films.

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