IDFA Frontlight: Our Land, Our Freedom by Meena Nanji and Zippy Kimundu

Our Land, Our Freedom by Meena Nanji and Zippy Kimundu

UK viewers are likely to be deeply shocked by Our Land, Our Freedom, the new film from Meena Nanji and Zippy Kimundu which received its world premiere in IDFA’s Frontlight this week. It reveals the brutality with which British colonial soldiers treated freedom fighters during the Kenyan Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. 

The British branded the Mau Mau as terrorists; incarcerated them in concentration camps; tortured them and killed them. The doc focuses on the experiences of Wanjugu Kimathi, whose father, Dedan Kimathi, was a Mau Mau leader put to death by the British. More than 60 years on, many of the same injustices her father was fighting against (notably the theft of land from the local people) still continue.

Meena Nanji is third-generation Kenyan but acknowledges that “none of us knew” about the scale of the British colonial atrocities. “It was an intentionally suppressed history,” she says. “I think that is one of our big aims [to expose it]. We are only scratching the surface with this film. We would have loved to have gone much deeper…maybe if Netflix offers us a 10-part series, we will!”

Growing up, students in Kenya were taught “British history” from British text books most of which roundly ignored the experiences and suffering of the Kenyans. Now, though, a process of “scholarly excavation” is well underway. Incriminating policy documents have been discovered in British archives. Harvard historian Caroline Elkins won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for her book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story Of Britain’s Gulag In Kenya.

“It is very sobering to read and then you hear the personal testimonies,” Nanji notes. “They [the documents] are almost an architecture of destroying a people…it’s just something that needs to be unearthed and told.”

“Everyone feels short changed because they did not get the land,” Kimundu says of the legacy of this sinister late chapter in British imperial history.

Read more at: