Last week we announced that Jim Chuchu’s celebrated biopic “Stories of Our Lives” will be screening at the New York African Film Festival on May 11. This week we’re delving deeper into the actual film.
“We began collecting and archiving the stories of persons identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex,” reads an explanation to the film provided by the Nairobi-based NEST Collective, of which Chuchu is a part. “We called this project ‘Stories of Our Lives’ – and we wanted to do this project for many reasons, mostly because we wanted to tell stories that are not often heard.”
“Stories of Our Lives” is made up of five short segments depicting five unrelated insights into LGBTQ life in Kenya. Chuchu based his script on personal accounts from LGBTQ individuals that the NEST collective interviewed while traveling across the country. Each segment is roughly 10 minutes long, amounting to a total running time of 62 minutes. Without giving too much away, here’s a brief summarization of each one:
“Ask Me Nicely”
The first part tells the story of two high school students called Kate and Faith. Having initially met at school, the two are quickly drawn to each other, finding solace in each other’s company and eventually forming a secret love relationship. But after the school’s principal find out about Kate and Faith’s secret relationship, something drastic happens that eventually tears the two lovers apart.
The second segment tells the story of two close friends, Patrick and Kama. Out walking one night, the two stumble upon a gay bar. Kama begins to speak condemningly, expressing hateful sentiments about the patrons as they walk past the bar. Patrick, who remains quiet, later returns to the bar, hoping that no one will find out…
The two farm workers Athman and Ray have been close friends for years. But when Ray begins to flirt with Fiona, a newcomer at the farm, Athman begins to feel hurt without fully understanding why.
After a long day, Jeff, a research worker visiting the U.K., hires a male prostitute called Roman for an hour-long session at his hotel room. But when Roman arrives, Jeff begins to feel anxious, not sure whether or not he is ready to engage in sexual contact. Then Roman offers to give Jeff a massage.
“Each Night I Dream”
The last segment of the film could be considered its most serious, which is why we have chosen to only explain it very briefly: When local legislators threaten to induct anti-gay laws, Liz starts plotting escape plans for herself and her love partner Achi.
“Stories of Our Lives,” which premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, has received glowing reviews as well as prestigious prizes worldwide. But despite international praise, the Kenyan Film Classification Board prohibited any distribution of the film, arguing that it “promotes homosexuality, which is contrary to national norms and values” of Kenya.
The film will be screened at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan on May 11 at 4 p.m. To get your tickets, check out last week’s announcement.