The political crisis following the December 27, 2007 disputed presidential elections in Kenya has been documented in various ways by artists, from photography exhibitions to poetry and other forms of art; the latest reflection of the event is through film. PEACE WANTED ALIVE, a 45-minute documentary directed by Judy Kibinge, shows how the youth have tried to live through the crisis.
Produced in 2009, the documentary follows George Ndiritu who has started a centre to train the youth in dance and other crafts, Nick Odhiambo who took in 34 children, Solomon Muyundo who painted peace messages on rocks, walls and anything else he could lay his hands on in Nairobi’s Kibera informal settlement, and Aisha Mohammed, a community counselor and sound engineer at Pamoja FM community radio station based in Kibera.
The film shows the traumatising events that unfolded two days following the delayed release of the presidential poll results, the growing tension among various communities within the slum areas and how the youth armed with crude weapons got out on the streets.
Little attention is given to the efforts by the six youth that the film ought to be following and as one may discover it tries to portray one community as the people behind the violence. The film portrays the supporters of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Amollo Odinga as the only ones behind the violence. Kibera falls under Lang’ata Constituency that now Prime Minister Odinga represents. The film appears to take sides as no adverse mention of the Party of National Unity (PNU) of President Mwai Kibaki is made.
Artistically, the film is not worth writing home about as it relies on archival news footage. For an experienced filmmaker like Kibinge whose works (PROJECT DADDY, DANGEROUS AFFAIR, KILLER NECKLACE) have been received favourably, PEACE WANTED ALIVE not only falls short of expectations but also questions the filmmaker’s creative abilities.
Watching PEACE WANTED ALIVE during the second Dunia Moja Human Rights Film Festival at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, there is little to celebrate about Kenya’s budding film sector that had started to get world attention following Kenya’s sterling performance at the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria in April 2009 with Wanuri Kahiu’s FROM A WHISPER feature film; many film writers had even talked of how Kenyan filmmakers were posing a great threat to the Nigerian Nollywood home video sector. But this may now look like wishful thinking.
While PEACE WANTED ALIVE is similar to FROM A WHISPER, another production dealing with traumatising events that have occurred in the history of Kenya and how the surviving individuals have tried to live with the trauma, Kibinge should have done much more than just pick up news clips and string them together as a film. PEACE WANTED ALIVE also lacks the universal appeal and only those viewers who understand what precipitated the crisis in Kenya would understand the film. For someone of Kibinge’s caliber, PEACE WANTED ALIVE is not what many of her fans would expect.