Kenyan gay-themed film ‘I Am Samuel’ premiers at London festival
A film that offers an intimate portrait of young gay couple Samuel and Alex as they navigate their way in Kenya where homosexuality is illegal has premiered at the London Film Festival.
‘I Am Samuel’, which took director Peter Murimi five years to shoot, is a documentary which tells the story of two gay men who must both balance their relationships with family duties.
In the film, Samuel was born and raised on a farm in rural Kenya and later moves to Nairobi were he meets and falls in love with Alex.
Samuel’s father, a preacher at his local village church in the city, expects his son to marry and looks forward to the day when he brings home a daughter-in-law.
While Alex and Samuel’s love for each other thrives, they remain constantly aware of the shadows of violence creeping around them.
Murimi follows Alex and Samuel and their highs and lows. Samuel’s parents, mainly his father, support his sexuality but also want him to be like most other people in Kenya, heterosexual.
Over five years Samuel struggles against a society that hates him for who he is, including his family with whom he had shared a very close bond, and he is forced to make compromises.
The film also gives an intimate portrayal of Kenyan rural life but there is also the menace, violence and intolerance that faces those who stray from the norm.
According to the Kenyan Penal Code, introduced by the British colonial administration more than a century ago, homosexual acts carry a 14-year prison sentence.
Samuel’s story is one that award-winning director Murimi and critically acclaimed producer Toni Kamau, in the film edited by well-regarded editors Ricardo Acosta and Phil Jandaly.
The documentary is among those being shown in the BFI London Film Festival 2020 and was made possible through grants from Sundance, Hot Docs, IDFA Bertha, Oak Foundation, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Good Pitch, Afridocs and Docubox.
Docubox is headed by award-winning Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge, who also served as the executive producer of the project along with Peter Mudamba and Oscar winning director Roger Ross Williams.
Murimi is a multiple award-winning Kenyan TV documentarian, who focuses on hard-hitting social issues, from extra-judicial killings to prostitution and recently won the 2019 Rory Peck award for a news feature about suicide.
His first major win was the CNN Africa Journalist of the Year Award for his intimate documentary about Female Genital Mutilation among his Kuria community, Walk to Womanhood in 2004.