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Award-winning film STORIES OF OUR LIVES that documents the hidden personal stories of lovers, fighters, rebels and the community histories that characterize the criminalized queer experience in Kenya, will open the 2015 Harlem International Film Festival on September 9.

The filmmakers and cast risked their very lives to bring to life this insightful series of vignettes based on true stories collected for the STORIES OF OUR LIVES project.

STORIES OF OUR LIVES, Nairobi-based visual artist Jim Chuchu‘s first ever feature film, premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, and also screened at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Teddy Special Jury Award, and 2nd Place Panorama Audience Award, Fiction Film.

The stories in this extraordinary film anthology are united by a commitment to telling the truth about the lives and love of gay and lesbian people in Kenya. In Ask Me Nicely, a pair of schoolgirls, much to their own surprise, fall passionately in love. In Athman, two men working on a tea plantation address the fact that one man’s feelings for his friend have evolved. A young woman dreams of transforming genders, and living openly with her girlfriend. Filmed in chiaroscuro shades of black and white, each story unfolds with an honesty that is heartbreaking in its simplicity. Based on real life experiences that were collected by an artists’ collective in Kenya, the material proved so revelatory that a decision was made to adapt it to the screen. With little more than a couple of lights and a small camera, the crew of actors and technicians made this anthology over the course of eight months. Underneath every story depicted on camera is the reality that even to speak the truth out loud is a dangerous and subversive act. Members of the Collective are still forced to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves.

The 2015 Harlem International Film Festival runs September 9-13, 2015.

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