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Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

Andrew Hebden @ BFI Film Fest London reviews I AM SAMUEL

 

Religion, homophobia, and a lack of resources loom over a touching account of one man reconciling his love for another man with the expectations of his family. The brave participants of this documentary avoid melodrama, histrionics and self pity. It’s a show and tell story that gives its subjects the decency of realism. 

Living in Nairobi, Kenya Samuel is one year into his relationship with Alex. The two men saw their separate stories reflected in each other’s lives and the fit between them came naturally. Both trying to find a place in a world that has been built in ignorance of their needs. Huddled in a small community of gay friends bought together by the internet now that they have found each other they struggle to work out what it means for their relationship with their families. 

Samuel has a daughter from a previous girlfriend. He cannot bring her to live in Nairobi because of his fear of what will happen if she finds out he is gay. He is equally struggling with what his identity will mean to his parents if they find out. Unable to lie he brings Alex into their orbit and tries to find a way to make things work.

The backdrop to this intimate and personal story is the organized violence against gay people supported by homophobic legislation. Video clips are shown of brutal attacks and beatings. Culturally there is a campaigning version of Christianity that asserts the virulence of the devil in twisting people’s hearts to create sin. This, combined with the visible lack of resources, where gender roles support the basic economic survival of families, creates a suffocating atmosphere for their love. 

Despite this the narrative always remains grounded in personal relationships. The father who wants the best for his son but thinks his own version of happiness is the only one that can work. An aging mother who needs a daughter in law to take over some of her work. A child who knows her father as a parent not a person.

It is an excellent documentary, directed by Peter Murimi, that is moving without being emotionally exploitative. There are no false notes. No concocted personal scenarios to heighten dramatic effect. It is real, understated and powerful because of it.

 

 

 

(Andrew Hebden viewed  I Am Samuel at BFI Film Festival  in London & it will be available to stream on BFI Player in the UK. and streaming in the US  via Sante Fe International Film Fest)

 

Review by ANDREW HEBDEN

Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.


Posted by queerguru  at  19:35

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Genres:  documentary

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