The Pulitzer Center-supported film The Battle for Laikipia premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival last month in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Directed by Daphne Matziaraki and Peter Murimi, the film documents the conflict between Indigenous pastoralists and white ranchers in Kenya’s Laikipia County.
Originating with seed funding from the Pulitzer Center in 2017, The Battle for Laikipia is the carefully crafted feature-length result of seven years of reporting for Matziaraki and Murimi. For two election cycles and amid an ongoing drought, the pair spent long days following their characters, filming confrontations, and capturing the aftermath. Through vivid interviews, the film explores how climate change is fueling land conflicts and raising new questions about property ownership and the legacies of colonialism.
The Battle for Laikipia sold out all four of its showings at Sundance, and Matziaraki said she could feel thoughtful conversations about the film’s themes developing as the team fielded audience questions. The film’s producer, Toni Kamau, won the Amazon MGM Studios Nonfiction Producers Award for her body of work.
The Battle for Laikipia’s premiere marks the beginning of an already-accomplished year for Pulitzer Center-supported films. Two other Center-supported projects—After Landing and Hold the Line—are set to premiere at the Big Sky Film Festival beginning on February 16, 2024.
For Matziaraki, whose previous short film 4.1 Miles won a Peabody and was nominated for an Academy Award, the premiere of The Battle for Laikipia at Sundance was a rewarding conclusion to a long reporting process.
“It was a dream come true,” Matziaraki said. “After so many years of trying to complete this film, there were moments when we didn’t see the end coming. For us to complete the film—and not just complete the film, but have it premiere at the most prestigious film festival in the United States—was a huge accomplishment and a huge reward.”