Stories of Our Lives is a triumph of Kenyan cinema. The film was made by the NEST Collective, an art collective in Nairobi. The film is based on five stories that were told to NEST as they were gathering accounts from gay Kenyans all across the country. The film brings these voices to the screen in a truly daringly, spectacular manner. The stark black and white cinematography captured by Dan Muchina and director Jim Chuchu allows the viewer to comfortably focus on the individual stories of those in the film.

The production of this film only makes it more amazing. It is illegal to be/promote homosexual(ity) in Kenya, however there is still a relatively large queer community. The NEST Collective realised that the voices of these people had never before been documented, so took it upon themselves to seek them out and collect their stories, this way there would be an unbiased documentation of this community. After collecting approximately 300 stories the group had to decide what to do with them – they agreed to turn them into a film. However, none of them had ever worked on a film before. Production Designer, Sunny Dolat stated that the Collective were literally ‘Googling how to make a film’. This makes the film an even more incredible achievement, as the film’s craft is a marvellous feat in determination.

Since the film’s making it has been banned in its home country of Kenya, meaning that those whose stories are told in the film, cannot see them brought to life in what is a truly stunning feature. Since its banning in Kenya, it has been screened at the BFI Flare Festival and won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Both the cinematography and the sound really stand out in this picture, with the Director Jim Chuchu creating most of the sound and being one of the two cinematographers. However what really makes this film special are the stories told. They bring a completely fresh perspective  to the LGBT struggle, one which truly does fight for a voice from within this marginalised community in Kenya.

Stories of Our Lives is a touching yet strong film that brings us powerful stories from a new perspective. It is a tour de force of political cinema and showcases the variety in what is but a small part of the queer community in Kenya. As for the rest of the stories collected, they should be available for hearing according to Sunny Dolat, soon – this time in the form of prose.

For more information about the NEST Collective or Stories of Our Lives visit their website here.


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