Emma Clarendon chatted to the director about his debut film feature I Am Samuel playing as part of the BFI London Film Festival.

Thank you so much for talking to me. Could you explain for those who don’t know what I am Samuel is about? I Am Samuel is a film about love. It’s a film about resilience and it tries to show what it is like to live as a gay man in Kenya.

How did you come across Samuel’s story? I had a personal motivation to tell a story about LGBTQ people in Kenya because someone very close to me was struggling to come out to their family. I met Samuel through a mutual friend and he was keen to tell his story. He said when he was younger, he didn’t know any grown man who was gay and he thought he was alone. He thought it was important for the next generation to have an example of a gay Kenyan man that they could relate to.

What shocked or surprised you the most as you were capturing this story as it unfolded over the five years? I was impressed by the love that Samuel and Alex have for each other and their courage. Despite their society being against their love, they are determined to make it work.

What did you feel that you took away from the experience of filming I am Samuel? That love wins over fear. Samuel’s father found a way to co-exist with his son despite disagreeing with who he is. I was very surprised by Samuel’s friends in Nairobi, their incredible ability to create a safe space in a very hostile environment. Inside the bubble, they can laugh, cry and celebrate love and it was very inspiring to see that.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from this documentary? I hope people will be able to admire the strength that Samuel and Alex have to keep their love alive. Also, I hope the film will begin to change stereotypes about LGBTQ stories from Africa – that even in hostile environments, there is hopefulness, happiness and celebration of love.

How did you feel once you had completed I am Samuel? I am happy, and especially now that we are able to share the film with the public, but the work is not yet finished – I feel a strong responsibility to find a way to eventually show it in Kenya. 

By Emma Clarendon

I am Samuel can be seen on BFI Player until the 13th October 6.30pm. It currently doesn’t have a UK release date.