I am Samuel

When Loving is a Crime

Being Samuel Review: When Loving is a Crime

What is it like to love in a hostile environment?  2.20 minutes into Peter Murimi's documentary, I am Samuel, we realize that love can be synonymous with lynching.

In Kenya, loving someone of the same sex is a crime. In addition to the repressive mechanisms of the state, members of the LGBTQI community are harassed with stones, and insults, bruises on the face and to the ego. Despite this hostility, the protagonist Samuel dares to love his partner Alex. Peter Murimi’s documentary chronicles this relationship in a little over an hour.

But who is Samuel?

Samuel is a simple man of modest means. Samuel grew up on a farm in rural Kenya and came of age amidst the harsh traditions and pentecostal leaning of his household. Newly independent, he moves to Nairobi in search of new directions for his life. He comes out as homosexual, joins a small community and falls in love with Alex. He tightens his belt as the struggle for his passion is turbulent. There are threats of violence and rejection. In addition to society, Samuel has to face his father, a preacher from a local church who doesn't understand why his son is not yet married after attaining a certain age.

Peter Murimi is meticulous in portraying this unusual novel. In addition to capturing the love story of Samuel and Alex, he is concerned with measuring the society barometer that the story takes place within. Filmed in five years, the director immerses himself in Samuel's world, penetrates the interior of his life and eases himself into his protagonist’s headspace. Samuel walks a tightrope, trying to find harmony between various strata of his life, but it is conflicting to exist as himself and Murimi is in tune with this.

One of the aspects of the film that draws immediate attention is the sound design. The sound work brings the necessary atmosphere to the narration of  this rich and intimate documentary. Like the Chilean film director Miguel Littín, Peter Murimi uses his camera to portray a clandestine adventure. Murimi invests in open shots when necessary, but like Littin, his strength is the detail.

This story emanates from the Talent Press, an initiative of Talents Durban in collaboration with the Durban FilmMart. The views of this article reflect the opinions of the film critic Hélio Nguane.