On 6th June 2013, William Hague announced that a compensation of £19.9 million would be made to survivors of Britain’s violent repression of the 1950s Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Over several years, five elderly Mau Mau veterans campaigned to be able to bring their claim against the UK government, and finally won the right proceed in October 2012. Colonial-era records that were previously hidden by the Foreign Office were eventually made public and formed the basis of the veterans claim against the government.
The exclusive documentary A Time There Was uses interviews and archival footage to give a unique insight into this episode of history – one of the most contentious in Britain’s imperial endgame.
This autobiographical documentary revisits the Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950s in which director Donald Williams participated as a young British soldier stationed in Kenya for his national service. This conflict sparked by an anti-colonial uprising resulted in huge loss of life and a significantly shifted political landscape in Kenya. More than 50 years after the conflict, Williams confronts his past with audacity and unflinching self-inquiry.
Alongside Williams’s own experience are the stories of three people from this time: Achrroo Kapila, an Indian lawyer, who defended 500 Mau Mau people and was imprisoned in the 1980s by enemies in the Kenyan government; Mwaria Njuma, also known as Major Ruku, a Kikuyu who took the Mau Mau oath and fought against the British and the Loyalist Home Guard; and John Nottingham, a British District officer in the District Colonial Service.
Combining McWilliams’ own photographic record of the times with original animation and archival imagery, A Time There Was crafts a thoughtful account of the Mau Mau Rebellion.