The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) announced a prohibition on the exhibition, distribution, possession or broadcast of “I am Samuel,”

The film – which was shot over five years and took two years to edit – follows the life of a young man tormented by his sexuality while growing up in rural Kenya, who finds acceptance after moving to the capital, Nairobi.

“The Board finds the documentary not only blasphemous but also an attempt to use religion to advocate same sex marriage,” the KFCB said in a statement. It was also an affront to the constitution, which codifies marriage as heterosexual, the statement said.

Under a colonial-era law, gay sex in Kenya is punishable by 14 years in prison.

Toni Kamau, one of the film’s producers, said the ban is an affront to the freedom of speech enshrined in the country’s constitution. She said she was “deeply saddened by the discriminatory language used by the government to describe the experiences of people who allowed us into their lives”.

“We believe that this is a bigger conversation about freedom of expression. Everyone has the right to share their lived experience, their truth. We love character-driven documentaries that give insight into people’s lived experiences,” said Kamau.

“What does it mean to be a Kenyan religious man in a country that criminalises your love? We thought that it was important to share this story because it is a Kenyan story.”

“We knew it was possible… but you hope for the best. When I made this film, I made it with African audiences in mind,” Peter Murimi, the movie’s director, told Reuters.

Directors Notes on the Film :

“This is a love story of two men, Samuel and Alex, who are deeply committed to each other. It is also a film about the resilience of love between father and son. Samuel’s relationship with his father is very similar to my relationship with my father. Both our fathers had expectations of us that we could not fulfil. In my case, my dad wanted me to have children of my own and go into business, rather than filmmaking. Samuel’s father, Redon, was desperate for him to marry a woman and live the same kind of life as him – as a farmer, pastor, husband and father.

Redon is a retired painter who has been married to his wife Rebecca for 50 years. He is also a pastor at the local church, and a small-scale farmer in rural  Kenya. Every season, the couple plough their two-acre farm and plant maize and beans to eat at home. They also keep two cows for milk. Redon, being deeply religious, struggled to cope with the discovery that his son was gay and the film follows the family as they adjust to this difficult new reality.  

Kenya is a country with extreme wealth inequality. Money and privilege can buy some privacy and security if you are gay. But most Kenyans are poor and live in rural areas or informal urban settlements where they cannot afford to hide dangerous secrets like their sexuality. Their voices are unheard, and their issues are rarely discussed in the media or by mainstream policymakers. It was very important for this film to capture the reality of being poor and gay in Kenya – an experience shared by millions of LGBTQ+ people around the world.”