Stories of Our Lives

DIRECTOR: Jim Chuchu

Bay Area Premiere

Homophobia is not just strong in Kenya but institutionalized, which exponentially raises the stakes of The NEST Collective’s daring and sublime anthology of short films. The Nairobi-based multidisciplinary arts collective–a confederation of ten artists who have claimed the transformational mission to challenge and dissolve myths and norms of Kenyan identity—went around the country compiling the experiences of LGBTQI people as a first step toward breaking the silence enforced on queer people. Artfully adapting those 200 interviews into a mosaic of five dramatic vignettes, the filmmakers forge powerfully intimate depictions of identity under siege that poignantly call out ignorance and intolerance.

The curtain-raiser of this elegant black-and-white collection, Ask Me Nicely, neatly etches a lesbian high-school relationship under both abnormal and normal pressures. Run depicts the perennial danger in Kenya of being perceived as gay and pushes the main character to decide whether or not he’ll keep running. Longtime friends in Athman grapple with the awkward tensions that arise when one guy declares his unrequited feelings. Duet, which portrays an interracial encounter in a UK hotel room, is the only story set outside Kenya’s borders. The overtly political and polemical piece, Each Night I Dream, centers on a lesbian couple who opt to finesse their cohabitation by passing as sisters.

Quietly inspiring and resolutely life affirming, Stories Of Our Lives nonetheless does not elide or evade harsh realities. Consider that the country’s Film Classification Board restricted the exhibition of the film for “promoting homosexuality, which is contrary to our national norms and values.” That’s the environment this invaluable work exposes and challenges. Amid the universal truths that will strike a chord with viewers, the uniqueness of Kenya’s fraught situation is ever-present.

— Michael Fox

In Swahili, English with English subtitles.

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F129

Co-presented by:
Impact Hub Oakland
Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the East Bay
Museum of the African Diaspora
NIA Collective
UHAI - East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative

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