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Another Kenyan film has felt the power held by the Kenya Film Classification board after it received a “restricted” rating. Many might remember the horror film “Otho the blood bath” released in 2009 that was also banned from the public for being “too bloody”.

“Stories of our lives” another Kenyan Film has also befall the same banned fate after the classification board stated that the film cannot be exhibited, distributed or broadcast in Kenya and they came to this conclusion owing to the fact that the film had content unsuitable for the Kenyan audience and were in accordance with Section 15 and 17 of Cap 222, Laws of Kenya which states and gives power to the classification board to;

Regulate the creation, broadcasting, possession, distribution and exhibition of films by:

(i)         Examining every film and every poster submitted under this Act for purposes of classification;

(ii)        Imposing age restriction on viewership;

(iii)       Giving consumer advice, having due regard to the protection of women and children against sexual exploitation or degradation in cinematograph films and on the internet;

If it considers that any cinematograph film is unsuitable for general exhibition, the Board shall record its ruling in one of the following forms:

(a)        For adults only;

(b)        Unsuitable for children under the age of sixteen years;

(c)        Unsuitable for children under the age of ten years

In a letter dated 2nd of October, the CEO of KFCB Onesmus Mutua gave the following reason for the ban of “Stories of our lives” stating that the “film has obscenity, explicit scenes of sexual activities and it promotes homosexuality which is contrary to our national norms and values.”

The makers of the film have however come out to confirm and deny and make a public statement about the film and they raise some very pertinent questions worth being discussed.

Story of our lives

In article on their website, THE NEST had this to say; “

On June 30, 2013, we began collecting and archiving the stories of persons identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex from Kenya. We called this project Stories of Our Lives - and we wanted to do this project for many reasons, but mostly because we wanted to tell stories that are not often heard, stories that characterize the queer experience in Kenya.

Does the film include obscenity? Yes. In one scene, an angry young man hurls insults at his best friend who he saw visiting a gay bar. Does the film include explicit scenes of sexual activities? That depends on your definition of “explicit”. Let’s just say the average viewer of Kenyan music videos would find the one depiction of sex in Stories Of Our Lives, very, very not explicit.

Does the film promote homosexuality? How exactly does one “promote homosexuality”? Pink leaflets handed out to unsuspecting passers-by? Is homosexuality some kind of fad, or like a cold you can catch from greeting someone in the bus? It is clear that the board thinks that Kenyan adults are unable to safely watch this film without turning into a horde of virulent, flaming homosexuals (one hopes members of the Board were not afflicted by “gayism” after watching the film).

Does the film transgress “national norms and values”? Stories Of Our Lives is a film about people, it’s about co-existence, it’s about finding love and belonging. We made this film to open dialogue about identities, what it means to be Kenyan, and what it means to be different. By placing a restriction on this film, the Board has chosen to delay this inevitable conversation.

We hope Kenyans will get to see this film one day, because we made it for Kenyans.”

And Kenyans perhaps will definitely will. If the ban of the Hollywood movie “The wolf of wall street” by KFCB is anything to go, Kenyans have a knack for “the forbidden fruits” so to speak.

The film did however manage to make its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival 2014 to good rave reviews with Diriye Osman (writer Huffington Post) describing it as  “a gorgeously constructed tone-poem that taps into something deeply universal: the desire to belong, the impulse to feel wanted and needed and free. One of the most triumphant and stunning films of the year."

"Stories of Our Lives is both a labour of love and a bold act of militancy, defying the enforced silence of intolerance with tales rooted in the soil of lived experience." Says- Rasha Salti, TIFF

Produced by The NEST , the film stars Kelly Gichohi, Paul Ogola, Tim Mutungi, Mugambi Nthiga, Rose Njenga, Janice Mugo, Allan Weku, Maina Olwenya, Louis Brooke and Judy Gichohi and is directed By: Jim Chuchu

See the trailer of the film below:

Not known to many however was that a gay film festival was held at the Goethe institute and supported by the Embassy of Switzerland on September 8th and 9th 2011. Dubbed the “out film festival” ,Kenyan LGBTI(Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Ignored) group Gay Kenya made history by screening “Me Only” a Kenyan gay-themed movie, the first full feature of its kind in Kenya.

It touched on a variety of societal issues from the challenges of being gay in Kenya, to violence and homophobia, religion and its conflicts and African traditional and the presence of hetero-normative stereotypes in society.

The movie is an effort from students of the Kenya Institute of Mass and Communication. The film was directed by Kevin Kiboma and produced by Catherine Mumbi, who was a third year student and the movie was her first attempt. Catherine’s motivation for making the film was “We have gays in Kenya. They exist and we cannot ignore them. The aim of this movie is to give some exposure to this part of our society.”

According to Catherine Mumbi, the movie was disqualified from the Kalasha Awards 2011. “Unfortunately the movie was not liked at all. We were disqualified at nominations because the response was that a gay-themed movie is taboo in Kenya.”

By banning such a film about what is the fact on the ground, are we not revoking human rights?

By Gerald Langiri

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