Something of Value (1957)




Director:  Richard Brooks.

Starring:  Rock Hudson (Peter McKenzie), Dana Wynter (Holly Keith), Sidney Poitier (Kimani Wa Karanja), Wendy Hiller (Elisabeth McKenzie Newton).

A film dealing with the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule (1952-1959).



After watching some wonderful movies about Kenya with fairly good relationships between the British and the Kikiyu people, this movie is a reminder of the bitterness that developed between the two peoples as more British came into Kenya and they started treating the natives as a group of second-class citizens, if even that. 

In black and white, the photography of the landscapes can't compare with color photography. 

The white Peter McKenzie and the native Kenyan Kimani Wa Karanja grew up together and are close friends. But in adulthood, Kimani finds himself increasingly treated unequally compared to his white friend.  Kimani resents this and when a white hunter slaps Kimani to put him in his "place," Kimani suddenly becomes interested in the burgeoning Mau-Mau movement. 

The Mau-Mau were a frightening group.  In an attempt to force the British out of Kenya, they would literally hack their victims to death with machetes.  They killed men, women and children mercilessly, often mutilating their bodies.  The British, naturally, were quite aroused by the new movement and responded with considerable violence, including torture of those being interrogated. 

Kimani has reservations about the use of violence, but he takes the oath of the Mau Mau and participates in their raids.  In fact, over time, Kimani becomes a "general" in the movement. 

When the McKenzie family is attacked by the Mau Mau, Peter McKenzie is drawn into the fray.  This then leaves Peter and Kimani fighting against each other's cause.  Will their friendship endure despite the great barriers placed between them? 

There is quite a lot about the Mau Mau, but the real ones were much more brutal than the ones portrayed in the movie.  When I was young, I remember reading an article about the Mau Mau and being repelled and disgusted by their behaviors.  At least, in the film they make the point that most native Kenyans were not Mau Mau and were also repelled by the violence of the group's methods. 


It's not a great movie, but it is a good antidote to the more sugary movies about Kenya, such as Out of Africa and the Flame Trees of Thika.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See The Flame Trees of Thika (1982).



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