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Hot Docs 2020: “I Am Samuel” ★★★


It’s extremely hard to be an LGBTQ member in the Western world. It’s even more difficult, if not deadly, in Africa. Just to think about what they all go through can be compared to a horror film with scenes that our mind would not be able to tolerate. Thus, “I am Samuel” is an eye-popping story that is equally deep, moving, and sad at the same time.

Directed by Peter Murimi, “I Am Samuel” follows its titular character, a Kenyan man, who lives in the Kenyan countryside, balancing two lives at the same time. Moving to a big city, he meets Alex, in whom he finds a soulmate. As the two navigate through the hardship of gaining acceptance of society, they create their own world where they can be together happily ever after. However, as each story has its dark side, “I am Samuel” opens up the wounds of a country that is willing to punish those who supposedly live against the order of nature. Both, Alex and Sam, must be clever enough to keep their feelings contained for trustworthy people only.

When the film opens, we find Samuel, who begins telling his story of how he met Alex, the love of his life. He reveals that it was Peter Murimi who encouraged Sam to share his life experience with the world. In Kenya, the law under Penal Code 162 says that any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. Then, we are left to watch a video of Sam’s friend severely beaten up by a large crowd and whose fate was not shared, whether he survived the brutal attack or not.

Sam and Alex have parents who either pretend they do not realize their sons are gay or, like Sam’s father, are so angry that they won’t even accept him. As a son of a preacher and living in a city such as Nairobi, the viewer from the comfort of their room watches how some people in the world struggle on a daily basis not to make their ends meet but for the right to be loved in return, whether that love is in the form of a man or woman.

Stories like “I Am Samuel” are important to be told. It teaches us humanity, to be more compassionate, and see a profound example of what does it mean to be a simply genuine being with the only desire to love whomever he wants. The power of this documentary speaks volumes as we grow confident that it has the required energy to send positive vibes through the silver screen yet remind us that, while we take things for granted, there are people who live on little things, rely on themselves only, and are happy to appreciate the little things and enjoy their little freedom that can be taken away any minute.

Yes, love is strong and worth fighting for. It’s just a level of sacrifice some commit and some even more but it all comes down to the matter that cannot be denied; we are ready to stand against the world but if we don’t have our family by our side, can we really defeat the worst enemy, fear, is the exact question “I Am Samuel” is about to answer.

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