VIDEO: Reason Jomo Kenyatta Hid His Movie Role From Kenyans

Many Kenyans don’t know that Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta starred in a movie, Sanders of the River, in 1935.

Despite having a role as a powerful tribal chief, Kenyatta never publicly acknowledged his role in the British film directed by Zoltán Korda, based on stories by Edgar Wallace.

The main character in the movie, Bosambo, was played by Paul Robeson.

Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, dressed in furs and a spear, for a role in Sanders of the River

The reason for Kenyatta’s silence was that, while the movie achieved commercial success, it did not live up to the spirit of its original concept.

In the film, Mzee was supposed to wear tribal clothing and stand next to Bosambo the main character, for a single scene that lasted 6 minutes.

The movie’s purpose was to help audiences understand and respect the roots of black culture.

When taking up the role, Kenyatta thought that the film would portray Africans positively.

The filmmakers took an unusual step towards authenticity by sending a film crew on a four-month voyage into remote areas of Africa. They recorded traditional African dances and ceremonies, with the intention of integrating this footage with scenes shot in the studio.

After the filming process, the movie’s message was changed during editing; it seemed to justify imperialism.

The finished film was dedicated to “the handful of white men whose everyday work is an unsung saga of courage and efficiency.”

This angered both Kenyatta and the lead actor who had introduced him to the producers.

Robeson himself was so mad that he unsuccessfully tried to buy back all copies of the film to prevent it from being shown.

Can you spot Jomo Kenyatta in the movie scene below?


Film Speak: Sanders of The River

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