Kenyan authority has banned a documentary about two gay lovers, calling it “unacceptable and an affront to the culture and identity” of a deeply Christian country that has long criminalized homosexuality.
Directed by a Kenyan filmmaker, ‘I Am Samuel’ depicts a romantic relationship between two men living in Nairobi and this has aroused the rage of the country’s censors board for promoting “same-sex marriage as an acceptable way of life”.
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) noted that the documentary sought to propagate “values that are in dissonance with our constitution, culture values and norms”.
KFCB boss, Christopher Wambua in a statement declaring the movie as “blasphemous” said:
“Worse still, the production is demeaning of Christianity as two gay men in the film purport to conduct a religious marriage invoking the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“Any attempt to exhibit, distribute, broadcast or possess the restricted film within the Republic of Kenya shall, therefore, be met with the full force of the law”.
Homosexuality is taboo across most of Africa, and gays often face discrimination and persecution. Attempts to overturn British colonial-era laws banning homosexuality in Kenya have proven unsuccessful, and gay sex remains a punishable crime with penalties that include imprisonment of up to 14 years.
‘I Am Samuel’ is the second gay-themed film to be banned in Kenya following a 2018 decision to stop cinemas from showing ‘Rafiki’, a lesbian love story that became the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes film festival.
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It is worth noting that the movie was also nominated to receive an Oscar. In order to be submitted to the Academy Awards, the film must have been publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days at a commercial motion picture venue.
Due to this, the ban on ‘Rafiki’ (‘friend’ in Swahili) was overturned by a court, and the film opened to sell-out to audiences in Nairobi.
The presiding Judge, Ms. Okwany, in her ruling, gave permission for the film to be shown to “willing adults”.
She said she was “not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film”.
However, the head of the Kenya Film Classification Board, Ezekiel Mutua, was unhappy about the decision, saying “homosexuality is not our way of life”.
The movie director of ‘I Am Samuel’, Peter Murimi told local media in an interview that he did not expect the documentary to fare well with Kenyan censors.
He described the film as “very nuanced, it’s very balanced, it’s a story about a family that is struggling with this issue, having a gay son.
“So, we’ll just try our best and hopefully Kenyans will see it and realize there is nothing wrong with it. That’s what we want”.
The documentary, which has been shown at several film festivals and is available to rent online, also gained support from ‘Rafiki’ director Wanuri Kahiu.
“We change people through conversation, not through censorship”, she tweeted in response to news of the ban, quoting hip-hop star, Jay Z.
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