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Created by the members of a Nairobi-based arts collective — who have removed their names from the film for fear of reprisal — this anthology film that dramatizes true-life stories from Kenya’s oppressed LGBTQ community is both a labour of love and a bold act of militancy.

Stories of Our Lives began as an archive of testimonials from Kenyan persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex assembled by a small Nairobi-based multidisciplinary arts collective. So compelling were these stories that the ten-member association of artists, social workers and entrepreneurs was inspired to adapt some of them into short films. Working on a shoestring budget with one small video camera, two LED lights, a portable digital recorder, a shotgun mic, and relentless courage and enthusiasm, the cast and crew shot, edited, and mixed five shorts over eight months to create this remarkable anthology film.

The resultant black-and-white vignettes — Duet, Run, Ask Me Nicely (Itisha Poa), Each Night I Dream, and Stop Running Away — unfold with a graceful simplicity and beguiling charm that belie the fraught circumstances of their making. In Kenya, as in most of the African continent, the struggle for LGBTI rights is a dangerous battleground. Beyond the pervasive social and cultural conservatism of Kenyan society, the country's laws stigmatize and criminalize non-heterosexual identities, which has naturally resulted in the near-total absence of questions of sexual identity from Kenyan cinema. Presented here with anonymous credtis in order to protect its makers from punitive reprisals, Stories of Our Lives is both a labour of love and a bold act of militancy, defying the enforced silence of intolerance with tales rooted in the soil of lived experience.

RASHA SALTI

Other Films from this Programme