Something Necessary, the third Kenyan film to come from the Fine Day Film Workshops premiered on February 19 in Cologne, Germany, in a somewhat muted affair that was significantly absent of the large population of resident Kenyans.
Nonetheless, the film acquitted itself quite well to the predominantly European audience and elicited hearty applause, prompting award-winning film director Judy Kibinge to laughingly comment that it was the first time that an audience had applauded immediately after the film ended. "All the times the film has been screened in Kenya, there is usually a long moment of silence before people clap. I think it leaves everyone thinking for a moment," she said.
According to Kibinge, Something Necessary touches a nerve with many Kenyans, who now faced with another election are reminded about the events that transpired five years ago, when they last went to the polls.
The edgy film tells the story of Anne (played by Susan Wanjiru), a woman whose entire life is turned upside down by the violence that rocked Kenya after the 2007 elections.
Her husband is dead and buried on their destroyed farm, her son is in a coma and she herself has to will herself back to health, while at the same time caring for her son, rebuilding her home while fighting off a brother-in-law who wants to lay claim to it, dealing with the aftermath of rape and grief.
Joseph (played by Walter Kipchumba Lagat), a young gang member who was among those that perpetrated the violence is also going through his own journey to recovery, looking for legitimate work, falling in love and seeking his own form of atonement by helping Anne out on the farm.
It is a story of pain, defiance, love and triumph, but mostly, it is a depiction of what life may have been for ordinary people caught up in the mayhem. Kibinge explains that rather than trying to tell the big, sensational event, the film highlights the finer details about the participants. "Often, it is the large-scale tragedy that is shown. We wanted to also tell the small, seemingly unimportant story that is often ignored," she says.
Indeed, the film focuses more on revealing the multi-layered lives and experiences of each character than it does on analysing the structural causes of the conflict.
Kibinge acknowledges that the film did not cover the complex issues that define Kenya's political history. She states that the Kenyan society is complex and defining anything that happened in 2007 only along ethnic affiliations would be too simplistic.
The director emphasizes that the purpose of the film and the reason it was released strategically before the March 4 elections was to encourage people to reflect. "We need to know where we are coming from and why things are the way they are."
Something Necessary is the third film to come out from the annual One Fine Day Film Workshops, which are a partnership project between Deutsche Welle Academy Bonn and Ginger Ink Productions Nairobi and are run by internationally renowned film director Tom Tykwer.
The German premiere was attended by film director Judy Kibinge, lead actress Susan Wanjiru, producer Tom Tykwer and the better part of the German technical team that helped in the trainings and production process. The film is scheduled for screening in 12 other cities until March 3.