A Time There Was: Stories from the Last Days of Kenya Colony

A Time There Was: Stories from the Last Days of Kenya Colony

| 1 h 27 min
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This autobiographical documentary revisits the Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950s. More than 50 years after the conflict, in which the director participated as a young British soldier stationed in Kenya for his national service, he confronts his past with audacity and unflinching self-inquiry.

Combining McWilliams' own photographic record of the times with original animation and archival imagery, A Time There Was crafts a thoughtful account of the Mau Mau Rebellion – one of the most contentious episodes in Britain’s imperial endgame.

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  • kingmaxwell

    I think this is an elegant attempt to get at some complicated ideas. The difficulty of memory, and what we remember is put at the forefront. Turns out that "being there" isn't a guarantee that you'll see, perceive or remember what actually happens. This film is a good example of national amnesia and the preference to disown our own stories when they are scary. Kudos to McWilliams for his struggle to get at the very ideas of what he encountered and did. I also think that the structure of the film is topnotch. Use of still shots, overlays, and narration were strong. This isn't a film to get at the full history of colonialism, but rather how it impacts a few people who swam in the water. Provocative.

    kingmaxwell, 27 May 2011
  • Ambricourt

    Although superbly edited the pacing is slow for contemporary audiences. The narrative is carried by the contrast between the unrepentant former Independence (Mau Mau) leader and the repentant ex-Englishman John Nottingham. Through these figures and the narrator's voice-over, moral issues are raised, but evaded; nostalgia becomes a narrative device blocking deeper questions such as: Who benefited from the Kenyan economy - in 1920s, 1950s, and 2000s? Who manipulated the anti-Independence propaganda machine in 1950s financing films like SIMBA? Who, in 2010, are the present controllers of the Kenyan government and economy? Despite references to outrageous behaviours, this is a benign film about abominations committed across racial boundaries. If it were less benign its message would be more potent.

    Ambricourt, 2 Jul 2010