LGBT Film Festival Celebrates The Shunned Kenyan Gay Community

Given that homosexuality is unfortunately still illegal in Kenya, you would think that it would be the last place people would hold an LGBT event.

Yet, in Nairobi there was such an event, by the name of Out festival, which has been hailed as a key step in encouraging public discussion of LGBT issues in the country.

The programme lasted for four days, and opened with a suitable choice – the British film Pride. In case you don’t know, this film follows the lives of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the 1984 miners’ strike. Alongside this, they had highly praised sci-fi show Sense8, which depicts transgender and interracial couples.

One thing that was missing, though, is any Kenyan films. Stories of our Lives, which is an award winning production that followed the lives of LGBT people in Kenya, was banned in 2004 by the country’s film board.

Executive director of the Gay Kenya Trust, Anthony Oluoch, had this to say when speaking to The Guardian: “It’s a shame really that our own film will not be on show here. We feel the best way to reach the masses and to get society to understand sexual and gender orientation is through the arts, and it would have been best for them to see a Kenyan film which shows we are not asking for anything special from society, only understanding.”

Still, the very fact that such a festival happened in Nairobi is cause for celebration, even if LGBT Kenyans have a long way to go before they see true acceptance. It is well known that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is not exactly an ally, describing gay rights as a “non issue” after President Obama’s recent visit.

Still, there is yet hope.