Stories of Our Lives, a collection of five vignettes about the LGBT community in Kenya, made its debut on September 5 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Hundreds of anonymous interviews with gay men and women around Kenya were conducted by people from Nest, a Kenyan multidisciplinary art space that creates programs to bring all artists and audiences together to create new things.
“We’re really interested in telling stories that are different from the mainstream Kenyan culture, which denies a lot of things,” Jim Chuchu, co-founder of Nest, said.
Though most of the cast and crew have worked on multi-media projects, none have had formal training in film production. The film was an eight-month process using a $15,000 budget and a Canon DSLR camera.
“[Toronto International Film Festival] was a complete surprise to me and the whole team,” Chuchu said, who had low expectations for the film once it was wrapped.
Because homosexuality is still punishable by law in Kenya, many are concerned about how the country will take to the film.
“We’re not entirely sure what will happen to us as individuals, and us as an institution,” Chuchu said. During production, the filmmakers stayed anonymous, and only revealed their identities during the premier because of concerns with the anti-gay laws. “We’re still kind of in uncharted territory.”
However, Chuchu believes the message the film has is worth it.
“It’s been very emotional,” he said. “It’s made us see that it was important to do this film.”