Kenya: 'Gay' Documentary Producer Moves to Court

28 September 2021

The Director of a documentary that was recently banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) has vowed to challenge that decision in court.

KFCB recently banned the 'I am Samuel' documentary for promoting same-sex marriages which are illegal under Kenyan law.

"We knew it was possible (for the film to be banned) but you hope for the best. When I made this film, I made it with an African audience in mind. We will try and appeal but I am really disappointed because I was looking forward to engaging with fellow Kenyans on LGBTQ issues." Peter Murimi, who directed the documentary, told Reuters.

And Toni Kamau who produced the film has also shared his disappointment with KFCB's decision.

"It's unfortunate a film that so clearly depicts the life of a normal Kenyan man would be restricted in Kenya. The film shows that life and its struggle are truly the same for us all, regardless of our sexuality," he said.

The 52-minute documentary which was reportedly produced over five years, tells the story of Samuel who lives and works in Nairobi, and his partner Alex. It follows Samuel's sexuality, his relationship with his parents who are traditional farmers and are keen to see him get married and settle down.

"The documentary ultimately features the marriage of two men and concludes with the dedication of the film to the gay community. Worse still, the production of Christianity as two gay men in the film purports to conduct a religious marriage invoking the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. On the basis of religion as a classifiable element, the Board finds the documentary not only blasphemous but also an attempt to use religion to advocate same-sex marriage." read part of KFCB's statement.

The film premiered at Canada's Hot Docs Documentary Festival last year and has so far been screened at more than 25 festivals across the world including the BFI London Film Festival, New York's Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa this year.

This latest move by KFCB comes three years after the film board also banned Rafiki, a 2019 Oscar-nominated lesbian film produced by filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu.

Wanuri challenged the decision in court and the ban was briefly lifted for seven days by Justice Wilfrida Okwany to allow the filmmakers to submit the film for the foreign-language Oscar category.

According to Oscars regulations, for a film to qualify for submission it must have been screened at least seven consecutive days in its country of origin. With the reprieve, the film sold out to crowds in cinemas in Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa.

The Kenyan law criminalizes same-sex intimacy with a punishment up to 14 years behind bars.

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