Two young women are in trouble for their ‘peculiar’ relationship; a farm hand is tormented when his crush begins courting a woman; a young DVD seller is intoxicated by the smoke and sounds of a clandestine gay bar. These are among the tales featured in this beautifully rendered collection of narratives from LGBTI Kenyans.
Stories of Our Lives started out as an archival project by the multi-disciplinary Nest Collective, and the testimonies given have been tenderly wrought into funny, endearing – and at times heartbreaking – sketches.
A bold start for first time feature director and artist Jim Chuchu, who, in crisp black and white, not only presents the inner struggles of these characters with formal and aesthetic boldness, but captures the majesty of the landscape they inhabit. Impressively, the collective have no formal film training and Stories of Our Lives was shot using a Canon DSLR.
The quality and imagination achieved transcends the predictable but nevertheless disappointing response from the Kenyan government; after its Toronto premiere Stories of Our Lives was banned in the country for promoting homosexuality. That many of the actors are not themselves LGBT but were willing to participate at great personal risk is testament to the socially incisive and life-affirming vision of the project.