Runtime: 1hr 9mins
Director: Peter Murimi
Writers: Peter Murimi, Ricardo Acosta
By Alexandra Petrache
Filmed verité style, “I Am Samuel” is a story of hope, heart-break and pushing through to make it despite the odds. It shows part of the emotional and social journey two homosexual men in Kenya have to take to be together – this includes potential arguments with the family or community, social stigma, and physical abuse.
The film takes the form of a documentary, with little input from the professional crew. Written by Ricardo Acosta and Peter Murimi and directed by the latter, “I Am Samuel” received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the Atlanta Film Festival. The film is honest and shows how Samuel and his partner Alex navigate their lives, from hanging out with Samuel’s family, to living together, working and being with their friends. The ending hangs on a hopeful and cheerful note, however that does not balance out the injustice that same-sex couples go through just to be able together.
Both Acosta and Murimi are award-winning filmmakers, honoured for their achievements in the documentary genre. Murimi has been focusing on important social issues in Kenya, from mental health, rising suicide rates among men and female genital mutilation. For his piece on the latter, “Walk to Womanhood”, he was named CNN African Journalist of the year in 2004.
“I Am Samuel” is not remarkable for its editing or technical presentation, per se, but it does not need to be seen. The message it sends is much-needed, although it is heart-breaking that it is still required, and that the world can still be judgemental, punitive, and awful for same-sex couples. The documentary could have packed more of a punch by exploring issues that were only vaguely touched on, such as violence against same-sex couples, or families’ readiness to ignore the truth and pretend their children are heterosexual in order to avoid discussions that could disturb their apparent equilibrium. This would have lifted the film and given it more power to raise awareness. As it is, “I Am Samuel” feels passive at times as it seemingly pushes away major issues in favour of following family life. That may have been the intention of the filmmaker, but the film misses out on becoming a memorable production, and it does feel monotonous at times.