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Based on the true story of the 1987 Oxford University boat race mutiny and coach Dan Topolski's miraculous training of a haggard, rag-tag team into a winning outfit.
This film depicts the struggles in Kenya to quell the violent uprisings of an organized group of Kikuyu tribespeople, known as Mau Mau, whose aim is to force out the British, white settlers who colonized Kenya in the early 1900s. On 8 Apr 1953, Jomo Kenyatta, an Oxford-educated Kenyan native, is convicted of having fomented revolt by organizing Mau Mau, which has no translation, and is sentenced to seven years of hard labor. Kenyatta's fiery words have sparked the imaginations of many natives, and white settlers worry that the 175,000,000 black natives throughout the continent will be influenced by him in the uprising. As explained in the film, the Kikuyu, who consititute the largest of the five tribes in Kenya, have a long and intricate relationship with their farming lands. When British settlers first arrived in the early 1900s and negotiatied use of the Kikuyu's rich lands, language barriers resulted in long-standing confusion about the length of the land rights and permanent ownership. British farmers have used Kikuyu laborers to work the land and allowed them to have "squatter's rights" to farms that belonged to their ancesters. Although the British have taught the Kikuyu modern farming methods such as fertilization and crop rotation, the heated controversy over the land rights has created resentment on the part of the Kikuyu, and fear on the part of the settlers. Meanwhile, Kenya became industrialized, with thousands of miles of highways and railroads crossing the country, and the white settlers look upon the first fifty years of colonization as a success. By 1948, when a new generation of Kikuyu return from fighting in World War II, they are frustrated both by the shrinkage of their tribal lands and by being treated as inferiors by the colonists. The Mau Mau cult, which requires complicated and fierce ritual oaths, begins to grow among disaffected young Kikuyu men. Each Mau Mau "cell" is led by one person and consists of three to ten followers, who know only the others in their cell. Playing on many superstitions held by the Kikuyu, initiates are made to swear undying fealty to Mau Mau and to propagate violent resistance against whites, upon pain of death from other Mau Mau or ghosts. Kikuyus loyal to the colonists, or those who refuse to take the oath, often face retribution from Mau Mau cells. On 26 Mar 1953, at a native village called Lari, located only twenty-eight miles from the capital city of Nairobi, an unprecdented and shocking massacre occurs. Mau Mau insurgents, who have been attacking neighboring, white-owned farms, sweep down on the village while the men are away protecting the farms. Many women, children and elders are murdered or mutilated in the most vicious atrocity in Kenyan history. More villages that have resisted Mau Mau are burned, as are farms belonging to white settlers. As the violence increases, government officials attempt to force loyal Kikuyus to inform on Mau Mau participants, and if they do not, their herds are confiscated and they are forced to live on over-crowded native reserves. Hoping to bolster support, Kenya's British governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, makes a trip to outlying areas. Six months previously, Baring had declared a state of emergency, but due to the unwieldly system of government, in which all decisions must be approved in London, little action has been taken in support of Baring's declaration. Soon after, near the site of both the Lari massacre and the teacher's college envisioned but never completed by Kenyatta, a courthouse is built to try suspects in the massacre. Because there is little physical evidence, conviction relies upon eyewitness testimony from survivors, and thousands of Kikuyu are brought before the eyewitnesses for identification. Within three weeks, over three hundred suspects are arrested, and at the prison camp, are fed a daily ration of a pound and a half of cornmeal. The film notes that the Kikuyu once ate a varied, nutritious diet, but due to the governmental restrictions on their farming and animal herds, have become badly undernourished. Lawyers from the Kenyan Bar volunteer to serve as defense counsel, with Kikuyu chieftains acting as assessors to help the magistrates. In the first Supreme Court session convened on a Kikuyu reserve, thirteen trials are held, with seventy-five men being convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged. Later, in the native shanty town of Methari, a mere two miles from Nairobi, a policeman finds the body of a Kikuyu man known to oppose Mau Mau. Fearing that the shanty town is a hotbed of Mau Mau activity, Kenya Police Commissioner O'Rourke orders the village demolished. Numerous pamphlets advocating violence are found, thereby seeming to validate O'Rourke's decision, but many innocent natives are also displaced. Police roadblocks spring up throughout the country to keep control over the movements of Kikuyu tribespeople, who are forced to obey a curfew if they do not live on the native reserves, which house over four hundred people per square mile. In contrast, only forty-five people inhabit each square mile in white-dominated areas. As news of the Mau Mau crisis spreads throughout the world, Sir Oliver Lyttleton, the British Colonial Secretary, visits Kenya, and soon battalions of British soldiers arrive. The British "regulars" protect outlying areas while training native police and home guards, and eventually the country houses over seven thousand white troops, four thousand King's Africa Rifles and over twenty thousand local reserve soldiers and police. White farmers train in the use of firearms and are advised to change their routines in order to prevent Mau Mau attacks. Mau Mau rebels hide in the mountainous regions of Kenya, and soon all the Kikuyu reserves and surrounding areas, over ten thousand square miles, are sealed off from the rest of the country. Armored cars and RAF units join the battle against Mau Mau cells, with cave hideouts being blown up. Another tactic employed consists of local witch doctors seeking confessions from natives forced to take the Mau Mau oath. The natives participate in a complicated ritual that "cleanses" them of the blood oath and then return to a normal life without fear of reprisal from ghosts. For Kikuyu who are considered to be susceptible to join Mau Mau, the government establishes internment camps, which attempt to rehabilitate them through emphasizing Christian ethics, hard work and basic education. The film speculates that the propagation of Christianity has not necessarily worked in the colonists' favor, however, as the teaching of equality under God contradicts the way the black natives are treated as inferiors. With many issues yet to be resolved, white and black Africans continue to work together to build a strong Kenya in which many cultures can co-exist peacefully, before time runs out.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||San Francisco opening: 12 Nov 1954; Los Angeles opening: 9 Feb 1955|
|Release Date:||1955||Production Date:||
A Rock-Price Production
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||State Rights, Manhattan Films International, Inc.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Joe Rock Productions|
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