This is a journey into Kenya’s origins and its uncertain future. We travel along the colony’s iron foundations, the railway lines laid by the British imperialists as they raced to create a passage to Lake Victoria from Mombasa. 120 years later, the same railway is enjoyed by tourists seeking a taste of the vintage African safari, with luxury 1st-class carriages and pressed napkins. To either side of their trammelled way lie the gleaming metropolis of Nairobi, the rolling ranchers’ pastures and the sprawling slums of Kibera.
Shot on SD and 8mm film, this film takes the viewer on an experiential journey through different periods of history and levels of society: we are welcomed by a demented Mau Mau veteran, carefully set on our way by a railway tourist guide, and bade farewell in true Mombasa style by a melancholic Swahili guitarist.
David Cecil’s graduation film (Visual Anthropology, Goldsmiths’, 2009) was fraught with difficulty from the start. His original camera was stolen in Kilifi on the first night of the 2-week shoot, forcing him to shoot on 8mm and then film the rest in 5 days on a locally-sourced replacement. The result is haphazard but was well-received by audiences at Amakula Film Festival (Uganda) and received a nomination for Best Short Documentary in the 2010 Deborshir Festival (Russia).
Note the cameo (@06:10) by celebrated British film-maker Nick Broomfield who we bump into in Nairobi station during the shoot, and also the impressive rooftop graffiti in Kibera (@10:00). For those patient enough to sit through the credits, there is a final word from the film’s most colourful character.
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