I Am Samuel, an LGBTQ+ documentary about a Kenyan man struggling with his sexuality, has been banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board. In a statement, the board described the film as 'a clear and deliberate attempt by the producer to promote same-sex marriage as an acceptable way of life'. The board went on to claim that the film was ‘demeaning of Christianity as two gay men in the film purport to conduct a religious marriage invoking the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’, The Guardian reported.
Filmmaker Murimi and producer Kamau of the documentary are shocked by the decision. They said learned of the ban an hour after a press conference announcing it. They plan to appeal the decision. They also will make the film available to screen on Afri Docs for those living on the continent.
Interviewed by US based magazine Advocate, Murimi says: ‘This is a divisive issue — not everybody’s in the same place.’ To him, a significant concern is the censorship of the film. To stop a dialogue from happening, he says, is bad. ‘In this sense, it's treating some Kenyans as equal, like some are more equal than others, and that is wrong.’
Kenyan LGBTQ+ organisations have also strongly condemned the decision.
In 2018, Wanuri Kahiu’s short film Rafiki was also banned by the Board. While the members of this suppressive institution might continue to act as Don Quixotes and fight windmills, we have no doubt that Kenyan creatives and activists will not surrender and triumph, eventually.
About the documentary
Samuel grew up at the Kenyan countryside, where tradition is valued above all else. He moves to Nairobi in search for a new life, where he finds belonging in a community of fellow queer men. He falls in love with Alex. Their love thrives even though Kenyan laws criminalise everyone who identifies as LGBTQ. Together they face threats and rejection. Samuel’s father, a preacher at the local church, doesn’t understand why there son is not yet married. Samuel, must navigate the very real risk that being truthful to who he is may cost him his family’s acceptance. Filmed over 5 years, I A Samuel is an intimate of a Kenyan man balancing pressures of family loyality, love and safety and questioning the concept of conflicting identities.
Trailer I Am Samuel
Interview Pete Murimi