Agent of Hope: Our interview with director Patrick Mureithi

Patrick Mureithi is the Filmmaker in Residence at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, USA. He is the producer, director and editor of “Kenya: Until Hope is Found,” a documentary about healing form psychological trauma after Kenya’s 2007/8 post-election violence. He is currently in Kenya to screen his documentary as widely as possible before Kenya’s upcoming March 4th presidential elections. He has posted the entire film online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze6tG5dNIfc and has also given copies to DVD pirates at River Road free of charge so that they can sell it throughout the country at minimum cost.

KenyanVibe recently caught up with Patrick to discuss his film and it’s impact.

KV: First congratulations on the acclaim that the documentary is receiving. What was your inspiration behind it? Why did you decide to make it?

Patrick: Thank you. In July of 2007, I had begun working on “ICYIZERE: hope,” a documentary about forgiveness and reconciliation after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed one million people in 100 days (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAN_-Ylpjuw).
As I was editing the first version of the documentary, in December of 2007, Kenya’s post-election violence occurred. I, as well as most of the world, was very shocked at the intensity of the violence. In April of 2008 I went to Rwanda to share my documentary, and visited Kenya afterwards. Anytime I picked up a newspaper or listened to the radio or watched TV, there was a lot of talk about the need for Kenyans to reconcile, yet no one was proposing any concrete ways of bringing this reconciliation about. I knew from my experience filming survivors and perpetrators of Rwanda’s genocide that before reconciliation, which meant a restoring of normal relations, we had to have forgiveness: To stop feeling resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw or mistake. To get to forgiveness, one had to go through grief, preferably in a safe environment that encouraged him/her to ventilate their feelings and empowered them to learn various ways of understanding their situation and of addressing the emotions within them. This I what I documented in Rwanda, and I thought that I could share this with the powers that be in Kenya with the hope that they would then use the process as a template for bringing people together in Kenya. I tried to share the film with members of parliament, but I didn’t manage to get an audience. I did, however, share the film with the Nairobi Peace Initiative, the great Lakes Parliamentary Forum on Peace, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Aga Khan University Hospital, and with friends and family. Many people that watched the film said that although “ICYIZERE:hope” was a film about Rwanda, it was a film about Kenya as well: That there were many similarities between what led to the Rwandan Genocide and what led to Kenya’s post-election violence in terms of:

    • the violence being politically motivated
    • land grievances that weren’t addressed
    • roadblocks that were set up where your ID determined whether you lived or you died
    • neighbor turning against neighbor when they used to borrow sugar from each other or watch each others’ children, and countless people traumatized.

This revelation inspired me to make a documentary about Kenya’s situation with the hope that Kenyans would watch it and reflect on their current circumstance, and would realize that no matter what we have been through as a nation, we have it within our power to heal and to change the course of our history.

K24 interview

KV: In your opinion, while doing research for your film and talking to those affected, do you think Kenya has healed from the 2007/08 post election violence?

Patrick: I think there is a lot of work still to be done. While there was some reconciliation of sorts at the political level that ended the violence, there was little to none at the communal level. Kofi Annan and his team helped to avert what could have been a civil war or worse, and their work was tremendously important. But because Kenyans weren’t educated on how they could heal form what happened it has led to mass-traumatization. When over 1,200 are killed and 500,000+ are forced to flee for their lives (many of who are still living in Internally Displaced Person’s camps), the entire country is affected. Even those who watched form the security of their homes in the wealthier communities were affected because they didn’t know whether the violence was going to end up on their doorstep. So, unfortunately, my answer is no. Kenya has not healed from the 2007/8 violence because Kenyans have not healed. In order for healing to take place, we need to honestly look at how this violence has affected us, grieve what has happened, and take steps to fully process and release the stress and anxiety around the issue. This is an act of hope. Hope says that I will acknowledge what has happened, accept that it has happened, and take action to heal. How do I know healing will happen? Because I have seen others do the same. Denial says that I will avoid the issue altogether and maybe it will go away. But it never does. It just comes out sideways, in many other dysfunctional ways. As one of my favorite authors John Bradshaw says, “It’s not the trauma, but the repression of the trauma, that causes mental illness.” Because this is a culture that mostly doesn’t talk about these issues, that has one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people, that doesn’t have access to even basic counseling, there are many manifestations of trauma: High rates of alcoholism, domestic abuse, drug abuse, depression, an epidemic of our young men and women killing themselves, etc. The more we avoid addressing these issues, the more they will escalate. Time alone won’t heal this.

All this being said, there are some who have healed from their painful experiences, and there is hope that if they can heal then many more can do the same. I focus on some of these individuals in “Kenya: Until Hope is Found” with the prayer that their stories can inspire many in Kenya and around the world.

KV: What kind of challenges did you face while shooting the documentary? Were people open to talking about their post election violence experiences?

Patrick: The first challenge was and is financial. To raise money to travel to Kenya to film and then to focus full time on the first version of the project so that I could be done by December 2012 has been quite a journey. My family and I have had to make many sacrifices and I have often not paid myself for shooting and editing the film.

The second challenge is emotional. There is incredibly intense grief depicted in the film, and there are scenes I shot outside the workshop that didn’t make it to the final edit because of the violence. One in particular that I shot in May, where a man was beaten to the point of near-death in Kibera because he stole a DVD player, troubled me many months afterwards to the extent that I had nightmares over it. I also dedicate this film to my brother Howard Maina Mureithi who died in May of 2011. Dealing with his loss, which I have had to do every time I edited the film or watch it, has at times been very difficult. Yet I know that if someone can find hope because of my brother’s loss, then in many ways his legacy is a victorious one.

KV: With one psychiatrist for ever 500,000+ people how can we address the issue of taking care of those affected by trauma caused by the violence. As in where do we begin?

Patrick: Yesterday, on Monday, February 24th, I took a taxi from Kileleshwa to Westlands. The driver, a soft-spoken man in his mid-fourties, told about his best friend’s wife who has been suffering from depression because of financial troubles her and her husband have been facing. The depression was so bad that she begun to get suicidal and they had to find a psychiatrist. They found one on Monday, February 17th and had to wait until the following Saturday to be seen. When they got there, the line was so long that the psychiatrist could only see them for a few minutes and then set another appointment for 2 weeks down the line. This led me to question whether this lady got the help that she needed. For those who can afford psychiatrists, most of who are in urban areas in private practice, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they are being attended to in the way that their condition requires. For most Kenyans who make less than $1 a day, who can’t even afford a panadol/aspirin let alone counseling, their situation is even worse.

Where do we begin? By introducing alternative healing methods that work. Faster EFT (Emotionally Focused Transformations) is one such process that has helped many people around the world and, as you see in the documentary, has helped severely traumatized men and women in Kibera. Paschalia Nduko, one of the women I focus on in the film, spoke of waking up in the hospital twice in the previous month with drips in her arms, of her heart beating so fast she thought it was the end, of not being able to sleep. This was in May of 2012. 3 days ago, in February 2013, she said she has not gone to the hospital with stress-related ailments, she has been very calm inside, and she sleeps so well that she sometimes over-sleeps. She attributes this solely to Faster EFT. It helps us make peace with our past and with how we hold on to trauma within our bodies. It has helped many around the world, including many in Kenya. I have received many facebook and email messages from people that have tried it with great success, and during my visit to Kenya I have shared it live on 3 radio stations and one television channel. If Kenyans can begin to heal then there is hope for Kenya. If not, then repeated cycles of violence are guaranteed. Not just post-election violence, but the many smaller but just-as-fatal manifestations of trauma such as addictions, homicides, suicides and the like.

Paschalia & Patrick

KV: With the upcoming elections just barely a week away, do you think enough has been done and addressed so that history doesn’t repeat itself?

Patrick: I don’t think so. There are issues that only the government can address: Land issues, historical injustices, a guarantee of security, reliable systems that people can trust, etc. We have a new constitution, which is a big step. We also have a judiciary that according to a recent Infotrak Poll 80% of Kenyans have trust in, hopefully meaning that if the election results are disputed then people will turn to this institution that they trust instead of taking their frustration to the streets.

There are, however, other issues that have needed addressing for quite some time. The issue of high rates of youth unemployment, for instance, is one that will continue to ensure that unscrupulous politicians continue have thugs for hire. Kenya has a 40% unemployment rate, and 70% of the unemployed are youth. One of the subjects in my film talks about how politicians buy them for 200 to 300 Kenya shillings ($2.50 to 4) and they cause havoc in their communities. Such a segment of the population, brilliant, energetic but without meaningful work, is a time-bomb in our society.

In my opinion, one of the most pressing issues to be addressed is that of unresolved psychological trauma. This is something very few people talk about, yet is so tremendously important. We say we want a peaceful country, yet there are so many in Kenya who are traumatized, and many don’t even know that they are dealing with trauma. If we say we want peace then we also have to say that we need to heal from trauma, because they are deeply connected. You can’t have one without the other. We need to inject this issue of trauma into the national conversation, and empower people on various ways that they can address the trauma in their lives. Even in a country that is lacking in mental-health resources, this is entirely possible.

Allow me to share an analogy: If you have a neighbor that is known to engage in brutal fights every few months with their spouse, to the extent that even the children participate in the violence, will it help to go over to their place and tell them “peace?” To tell them “there’s no need to fight, let’s be peaceful, etc?” Will that reduce the chances of another explosion? Hardly.

There is more that is needed than just preaching to them at an intellectual level. They KNOW that their actions are destructive, they see how it is affecting their children, they feel remorse every time the rage passes over, but yet they continue to engage in violence towards each other. Just knowing that fighting is destructive doesn’t stoop it. As a matter of fact, it leads to even more shame and self-loathing because they can’t stop what they know is killing them. This is a classic case of what Sigmund Freud called Repetition Compulsion: The tendency to repeat our traumas. If we take this example to the national level, Kenya has had electoral violence even before 2007/8, and each time it has escalated (I need to add that electoral violence is not unique to Kenya, but has happened in many other African countries as well as in South America and elsewhere).

What we need as a country is:
1) A top-down political system that is trusted because it works, historical hot-button issues such as land rights, ethic exclusion, corruption, impunity and unemployment (that has grown from 12.7% in 2006 to 40% in 2011) to be addressed, and

2) A bottom-up approach that teaches Kenyans their rights and responsibilities and educates them about emotional intelligence, about how to deal with stress and anxiety which, by the way are the biggest killers on the planet. The inability to deal with stress and anxiety leads to addictions, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, homicides, suicides, and many other problems. This is an issue not just in Kenya but all around the world. In the US suicide is not the number one cause of death by injury (it used to be number 2 until just recently). In a July 2012 story on CapitalFM, Kenyatta National Hospital recorded 100 attempted suicide cases in the previous 2 months (http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2012/07/suicide-parents-need-to-wake-up/). These symptoms of trauma that I speak about will be ignored at our peril.

In the example that I gave of the family, without addressing the foundational issue of unresolved psychological trauma, they will continue to fight because the violence is within them and has to come out. This is as applicable on the personal and family level as it is on the communal and national level.

KV: Is dialogue being encouraged in those affected communities, like Kibera?

Patrick: There are many initiatives on the ground in Kibera and many other parts of the country that are calling for peace, but in my view not many are calling for dialogue. It’s very difficult to raise the issues that have led to violence without triggering a repeat of the violence you have been trying to avoid. We need a safe environment with skilled facilitators to bring about such dialogue. It took Kofi Anan and his team to make this happen on the political level, and on the communal level it will often take an outsider who is well versed in conflict resolution to make it happen. Workshops such as Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) hosted by the Alternatives to Violence Project (http://www.avpkenya.org/) are doing a great job of bringing people together and providing a safe place to address grievances and to grieve. There needs to be more of these gatherings, and my prayer is that the film helps to expose the important work that is being done by organizations such as these.

KV: You also had a documentary about healing from Faster EFT (Emotional Focused Transformations): Do you think that this can be a solution for a country that has a shortage of psychiatrists? And has the method been successful anywhere else?
http://josiahfilms.com/faster-eft-in-kenya/

Patrick: I absolutely think that Faster EFT is a contribution towards a solution to the shortage of mental health practitioners in Kenya. As you see in “Kenya: Until Hope is Found,” the participants of the workshop who try the technique come back the next day with testimonials that sound too good to be true, yet they are. Even in February of 2013, 10 months after being taught the technique, they are in a much much better place emotionally than they were before they were shown Faster EFT. I gave the example of Paschalia Nduko, but there are many other examples in the film and outside of it where issues that burdened people are no longer oppressive. This is a technique that works, and has no negative side-effects. It is a coping mechanism that is far better than the other modes of poor pain-management that, in an attempt to escape the stress and anxiety in our lives, we are apt to engage in. It can be used in conjunction with counseling, but can also be used outside of a counselor of psychiatrist’s office. It has helped US war veterans with PTSD, sexual abuse victims, drug addicts, victims of domestic violence, and the list goes on.
This has been documented in over 600 videos on he Faster EFT youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/healingmagic

KV: We’ve noticed that most of your documentaries surround genocide/conflict in Africa and how we can find hope and move forward in the aftermath. What lane would you want to create for yourself and other upcoming filmmakers who want to take the same route?

Patrick: I consider it my mission to produce films that inspire hope and encourage dialogue. I am also trained as a counselor with Faster EFT. This has been my personal journey, and it has been deeply rewarding, at least spiritually 😉

I would say to the filmmakers who want to follow this path to follow your heart. Pay attention to what makes you pay attention, and speak from the authority that can only come from facing the places that wound you. This type of work requires passion, commitment and a cultivation of spirituality. Why spirituality? Because there are things that you will face that no other person can lift you out of but your Higher Power, whoever that may be to you. Every day, throughout your day, ask God for help and give thanks at the end of the day. Study your craft, learn all you can, and tell your story because there is someone out there who is in the fight for their lives that needs to hear what you have to say.

KV: So we’ve seen you’ve had a few screenings in Nairobi, what’s next for the documentary?

Patrick: This time around I wasn’t planning on having screenings but on sharing information about my film (that it was online and people could get copies from DVD vendors for 80 shillings) on TV, radio and newspaper. I did, however, have a screening for 70 youth from various communities at Pawa254, a creative and activist hub that belongs to Boniface Mwangi, and at a church in Kibera for 170 youth from the community. They were both very successful in the sense that we got to speak about trauma and how we can best address it, and I even got to teach them Faster EFT, which they were all willing to do and found to be tremendously helpful.

So far I have had 4 radio interviews (plus one tomorrow evening), 2 TV interviews (with one tomorrow) and 4 newspaper stories (2 of which are to come out this week) while in Kenya. In 3 of the radio interviews and one of the live TV interviews, I have talked about, and demonstrated for the listeners and viewers, Faster EFT.

I have also spent time gathering footage for the final version of the film, as it wouldn’t be complete without the upcoming elections and their aftermath. I envision “Kenya: Until Hope is Found” being fully completed by the end of this year or early next 2014.

Pawa 254 screening

Screening in Kibera

KV: What other projects are you working on?

Patrick: This is a full-time project, and I will need to focus on it for a while yet. It has taken, and will take, a lot of emotional and financial resources to get it fully completed, and I will just focus on this step. As Dr. Martin Luther King says, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” The next project will be revealed in due time, but for now this is the most important – as well as the most challenging – project that I have ever worked on.

Except for marriage 😉

KV: Patrick, thanks for talking to us and good luck with the documentary and other future projects.

To make a tax-deductible contribution towards Patrick’s work, go to http://josiahfilms.com/donate/

To catch up with Patrick and his upcoming projects follow him on twitter or check out his website: @MureithiPatrick, #untilhopeisfound, http://josiahfilms.com/

 

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