BEAUTIFUL TREE, SEVERED ROOTS – ONE COUNTRY, ONE FAMILY, FIVE STORIES

Kenny Mann’s parents were secular Jews and socialists. Originally from Poland and Romania, they were forced to flee the Holocaust in 1940 and eventually discovered the “Promised Land” – which for them turned out to be not Palestine but Kenya,…

BEAUTIFUL TREE, SEVERED ROOTS - ONE COUNTRY, ONE FAMILY, FIVE STORIES

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Kenny Mann’s parents were secular Jews and socialists. Originally from Poland and Romania, they were forced to flee the Holocaust in 1940 and eventually discovered the “Promised Land” – which for them turned out to be not Palestine but Kenya, where they arrived in 1942. Born and raised there, Kenny Mann examines her parents’ background in Eastern Europe, their life and work in Africa, and their legacy during and after the Colonial period. Unlike British colonial settlers, who came to “develop” the land and exploit the African people, her parents came to Africa as refugees without racial, religious or economic bias, and devoted their lives to fighting hunger, disease and poverty, adapting their secular Judaism to a deep identification with Africa and Africans.

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent years in Kenya between the Mau-Mau uprising of the 1950s and Independence in 1963, Ms. Mann unfolds the story of her own search for identity as the daughter of non-practicing Jews, as a “British” girl in an Eastern European family, as a white in an African country and as an anti-colonialist in a British colony.

She also explores her siblings’ identities as they search for meaning through African tribal and spiritual rituals, presenting a fascinating examination of Jewish-Kenyan identity and an exposition of Kenya’s colonial history from a unique point of view. Rare archival footage helps to integrate the family’s lives in Kenya with major political events, such as the assassinations of the young Tom Mboya and Bruce McKenzie, both close family friends. Shot in Kenya, Poland and Romania, the unconventional format of six chapters utilizes live and archival footage, a variety of visual elements, Mann’s parents’ voices culled from 30 years of cassette tape correspondence, music, and the filmmaker’s own narration.

QUOTES FROM VIEWERS “Your doc is fascinating, explores a complex theme with poetic compassion, and enlightens us about a loaded period of Kenyan history. We are staggered by the pluck & commitment of your parents, intrigued by the spiritual quest of your brother and sister…” Gail Pellett, Writer/Producer/Director

“Although this film is a documentary, it is filled with poetry, making it all the more compelling.” Derek Walcott, 1992 Nobel Prize-Winner for Literature

“There is a true majesty at work in this artistic effort. It is a love song to Africa as well as a faithful historic record of a time when the country was entering a modern progressive age. More than that, it is a reflection on her younger self ; serving as a mirror held up to the young people of today who are forging their identities in a world that is at once fragmented and hyper-connected. The film is a testament to the filmmaker’s gifts and to her ability to look into her own heart and to question.” Jackie Marks, Archivist

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