Screening Violence and Reconciliation: The Production and Circulation of Films about the Kenyan Post-election Violence of 2007/2008

Robin Steedman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Following the Kenyan post-election violence of 2007/2008, a ‘critical juncture’ (Forest and Johnson 2002) was formed in which ordinary voices could contribute to the construction of a new ‘post-conflict’ nation, perhaps contesting official narratives and histories while adding to processes of reconciliation and nation-building. Kenyan creative seized this opportunity and there has been a remarkable and ongoing output of creative production in varied media, including film, books, and photography. Yet, to date there has been no systematic examination of this volatile period on screen, despite the existence of several short documentaries and feature-length productions specifically about this violence (Togetherness Supreme, Pieces for Peace, Ni Sisi and Something Necessary). This chapter moves beyond the current scholarship that examines post-election violence on film (Mugubi 2014, Giruzzi 2015) by looking at contexts of production and circulation rather than simply at the filmic texts. Arguments in this chapter follow Dovey’s (2009) postulation that for films to have an impact, they must reach an audience. While textual analysis methods are necessary to explicate the films and analyse the philosophies they put forward, a discussion on the ‘public lives’ (Modisane 2012) is also required to understand their tangible role in post-conflict reconciliation and nation-building. As such, this chapter focuses on feature-length films and is based on two periods of research in Nairobi (one month in Spring 2012, and eight months between October 2014 and June 2015). The chapter included audience research and interviews with film-makers regarding their production and circulation of films addressing post-election violence. In this regard, the chapter examines the films’ textual images as well as the intentions of the producers (the desired impact) and the actual contexts of their distribution and exhibition (circulation) both within and outside Kenya.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Archives of Atrocity : Essays on the Protest Tradition in Kenyan Literature, Culture and Society
EditorsCharles Kebaya, Colomba Kaburi Muriungi, Justus Kizito Siboe Makokha
Number of pages18
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication dateJan 2019
ISBN (Print)9780367205454
ISBN (Electronic)9780429552762, 9780429262166
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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