It’s three days into Toronto’s 25th anniversary programme for the city’s annual LGBT film festival, InsideOut. Yesterday we attended a screening of a visually beautiful black and white film whose several “stories” were deeply moving. Directed by Kenyan film-maker Jim Chuchu (born 1982), working through Nairobi’s NEST Collective of artists, Chuchu’s film is one of the best we’ve seen about the dangers of – and the hope and beauty of – being lesbian or gay. First premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2014, “Stories of our Lives” has the visceral force of early Spike Lee pictures, yet the complex nuances of the subject matter are handled with tenderness and exceptional grace. “Stories” possesses the profundity of a great poem; the actors know just how much to say or show – and when to hold back. The dialogue is in Kenya’s contemporary hybrid of Swahili and English – which is fascinating in itself.
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The NEST Collective’s mission statement:
“The NEST is a Kenyan multidisciplinary collective working since 2012 with the aim of exploring our troubling modern identities, re-imagining our pasts and inhabiting mythical African futures.
The NEST Collective looks to create work within the fields of film, visual arts, music and fashion that begins conversations and stirs up dialogue amongst our communities and audiences. We live and work in Nairobi, a city buzzing with energy and potential, a city of purgatorial traffic jams, colour, dust and the Pursuit of Money. We try to create work that dissects our city and its relationships with modernity, its past, and the edges between its social layers and its citizens. Inevitably, we also find ourselves exploring, dissecting and subverting the layers of how Africans are Seen and Unseen, what Africans Can and Cannot Do, where Africans Can and Cannot Go, and What Africans Can and Cannot Say.”