DER Documentary

Kenya / Faces of Change collection

Kenya / Faces of Change

A series of 4 films from the Faces of Change collection
by David MacDougall and James Blue
produced by Norman Miller
color, 121 min, 1974, digitally remastered 2017

Faces of Change - Kenya Series 2 DVD SET:

The Boran are desert pastoralists in Kenya and Ethiopia who traditionally followed the rains in search for grass and water. Since the 1960s many Boran have elected to settle in a few market towns, such as Marsabit, the district capital in northern Kenya. Those who settle are in contrast to those who pursue the traditional lifestyle, particularly in terms of work, education, and social interaction with the outside world.

Since 2015, the region has been on the western fringe of the on-going conflict between Kenya and the Al Shaba movement in Somalia. The films provide a backdrop to the harsh realities of this region of Kenya and the lifestyles of the residents.

"The core of this series is Kenya Boran 1 and 2, each designed to stand alone, but which together complement one another in a most useful and informative fashion. Their common subject matter is the development problems posed for rural Boran herdsmen and their families by the encroachment upon their once-isolated grazing lands of a growing town (Marsabit) and a major road (the new Nairobi-Addis Ababa Highway). These are shown in Kenya Boran 1, as two fathers and their sons discuss difficult choices between old and new ways of responding to the complexity of changes occurring around them, each emphasizing different aspects of the problem and different strategies for confronting them which, in turn, promote view speculation as to the appropriateness and the outcome of their divergent ways of dealing with change.

Kenya Boran 2 expands upon these themes by focusing on the life of Peter Boru, a 16 year old former herdsboy who has gone to the government boarding school in the town; his expression of his hopes, fears and aspirations is adroitly contrasted both with those of his unschooled neighbors in the rural cattle camps and with the bleak employment opportunities facing him in the modern sector, in the course of which some of the difficulties of existing national educational practices in promoting development are isolated and explored.

The hallmark of both films is their earnest commitment to permitting the Boran to define the issues that confront them in their own vernacular terms, expertly subtitled without the imposition of directed interpretative commentary… The overall result is a series of remarkably intimate and realistic scenes, attractively films with an absence of conspicuous staging or obvious show-biz; indeed, they move with a natural rhythm and pace that engenders an authentic sense of the problems, and of the sorts of ideas and feelings that individual Boran bring to bear in deciding on appropriate response to change.

The prevailing tone of both films is their seriousness and deliberate instructional intent to provoke analytic responses from viewers. Their principal value lies in presenting the evidence in such a fashion as to force viewers to arrive at their own conslusions about the course of action that seems most appropriate based on the film/essay evidence." — Alan Jacobs, Western Michigan University, American Anthropologist, 1977

Films in the Kenya series:
Boran Herdsmen
Boran Women
Harambee: Pull Together
Kenya Boran

Related Resources
Study Guide

About the Faces of Change collection
This revolutionary series of 26 - 16mm films and videos, funded by the National Science Foundation, produced by Norman Miller and documented by some of the finest ethnographic filmmakers of our time is now available through D.E.R. The films examine 5 cultures selected for the diversity of their geographic location: starting with the China Coast at sea level and moving up to Taiwan, then to Afghanistan, Kenya and finally to the mountains of Bolivia. Each location is examined through 5 themes: Rural Society, Education, Rural Economy, Women, and Beliefs.

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