New Film About Kenya’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission Released This Week

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Released on East African Remembrance weekend, the film—directed by British filmmaker Cal Murphy through Bold Content Video—follows a war widow who waited 79 years for news of missing husband.

Bold Content Video recently participated in a very moving project for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The Commission released a short film—directed by British filmmaker Cal Murphy through Bold Content Video—to mark the East African Remembrance weekend (25th-27th November, 2022).

The Commission, established to commemorate the people from the Commonwealth who died in the two World Wars, is responsible for mapping lost burial sites, recovering casualties, documenting names, and identifying and maintaining graves of fallen soldiers around the world.

In 2019, CWGC appointed a special committee to probe the early history of the Commission and identify inequalities in the way the Commission commemorated the dead soldiers of the British Empire.

The organisation was established in 1914 during World War I, and has evolved over the years. Its main goal, however, remains the same—to find unmarked graves of soldiers and to ensure that they are not forgotten.

However, the report found that between 45,000 to 55,000 casualties, mostly Indian, East African, West African, Egyptian, and Somali, were not honoured equally.

A further 116,000 (and potentially 350,000) soldiers, mostly East African and Egyptian, were not commemorated by name or honoured at all. This meant there were thousands of dead soldiers in graves all over the world whose families did not know where they were or what happened to them.

This film is about one such soldier, whose grave the Commission managed to track down, allowing his widow to find much-needed closure.

The story of the film—titled “Kwaheri Mutava”, or “Goodbye Mutave”—focuses on Esther, an old lady living in Kitui, Central Kenya, who had been waiting for her husband to return from the Second World War for 79 years.

In this poignant tale, Esther talks about how Mutava Ing’ati, her husband, was sent to India but came back in 1943 to get married. He left again a mere two months after their wedding and never returned.

Esther went on to explain how at that time, women were told that, even if their husbands died, they were supposed to stay in the home where they were married. That is why she was still waiting for her husband, even after nearly eight decades.

The film is narrated by CWGC field investigator, Patrick Abungu, who decided to help the lady find out what happened to her husband. In his investigation, it was revealed that it was not just Mutava but also his two brothers, Mutuko and Mutua, who were lost in the war.

This, says Patrick, motivated him to meet Esther, who he describes as “an amazing person”, and find out Mutava’s fate for her.

He finally found out that Mutava had died in India in 1945 and was buried in a Commission site in Kolkata. The reason why Esther did not know was that military authorities never sent an official word of Mutava’s death or where he was finally laid to rest.

After finding out about his death, Esther requested the Commission to engrave an inscription on Mutava’s headstone: Let the Lord keep his soul in eternal peace.

Finally, after 79 years, Esther not only found out what happened to her husband but also saw pictures of his grave and the headstone with the inscription on it—giving her and her family much-needed closure.

Shot on location in Nairobi, Kitui, and Tsavo, the film captures the landscape and the spirit of the people involved beautifully. It highlights the sacrifices so many people made during the wars, ending in a heartwarming moment, where Commission workers promise that the fallen soldiers will not be forgotten.

The director’s sensitive handling of the subject was complemented by Bold Content Video’s excellent production quality.

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