“Stories of Our Lives” shares the unheard stories of being queer in Kenya

Stories of Our Lives is a Kenyan film comprised of five shorts based off the true stories of LGBTQ Kenyans. Although successfully making the film circuit rounds, the movie has, sadly, never been shown publicly in Kenya, where the Film Classification Board banned it.

We recently spoke with writer/director Jim Chuchu about the film’s lesbian storylines, the current situation of Kenya’s queer community, and the criminal charges that came as a result of the film.


AfterEllen.com: Can you tell me how the story behind the short “Ask Me Nicely” came to be?

Jim Chuchu: This film was made as a result of a research project where we went around the country collecting interviews from queer people.


AE: So this short, all the elements in it were factual?

JC: Yes. They were factual, anonymous. We only chose that section of the story because it’s a narrative that we kept hearing over and over again. About how school administrations treat this kind of–I guess some would call it experimentation or this kind of discovery. This kind of underage sexuality. This language of suspension and expulsion from schools–it happens so much in all the stories of people we talked to.


AE: The principal in “Ask Me Nicely” disciplines the two girls over rumors of a relationship. Is such behavior from educators common in Kenya?

JC: Oh yeah. Especially with what they call “lesbianism,” which is popularly said to begin in high school.


AE: Even if it’s just rumors, it’s enough for an educator to go in and discipline someone over?

JC: We had so many stories about people who weren’t actually doing anything, you know, anything queer, but then they’d be sent away just for dressing a little different from all the other girls.


AE: In that same short, we see Kate having sex with Angelo to confirm whether or not she prefers women. That’s a scenario that often occurs in the Western world as well. Were you trying to show a parallel?

JC: There are a lot of things that are common to the global queer experience, especially when we are younger, if you’re trying to figure yourself out. And so I guess I could say that about the entire film, as being an answer to that idea of what it’s like to be queer in Africa. That there’s angry mobs everywhere you go, but there’s also a little space for existence and for self-discovery.