Kenya hosts region's first gay film festival By SAMANTHA SPOONER in Nairobi | Tuesday, September 13 2011 at 15:49
Kenya has made history by hosting the region’s first gay film festival.
The event, titled the OUT film festival, showcased films, features and documentaries on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) issues in Africa.
Organisers said it presented an opportunity to depict the lives, stories of love and challenges that homosexuals face.
The festival was organised by Gay Kenya in conjunction with the Swiss embassy and Kenya’s Goethe Institute, which also hosted it.
Founders of Gay Kenya say it was formed to help advance the visibility of the community, challenge the negative perceptions that exist and bring to light the abuses the community endures.
The gay film festival organisers said they had initially catered for an audience of 60 people, but ended up having to turn some away after more than 200 showed up.
Most of the audience were young Kenyans, but approximately 10-15 per cent were foreigners.
Most were students, interested in the cultural side of the festival and local productions, although curiosity was also a great factor for the attendance of many.
Films featured were from India, Kenya, Uganda and Germany and there was a special appearance by Lionel Baier, a renowned Swiss filmmaker, who showcased his La Parade.
The documentary film is about a parade which demonstrated gay pride in a Catholic conservative region of Switzerland. He followed the parades organising committee over seven months.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 96 per cent of Kenyans said that homosexuality should be “rejected” by society, one of the highest rates of the 44 countries surveyed.
In fact, under Kenyan law, the penalty for gay sex is five to 14 years imprisonment.
One of the festival organisers Francesco Cattaneo, said they were “prepared to ask people to leave” if there were negative reactions to the event. However, there was “lots of positive feedback with people hoping that [they] would do it again”.
Organisers said the festival served to bring issues of homosexuality to the forefront of debate through a less confrontational medium.
It also brought to light the fact that there is a new generation of Kenyans who are coming out and talking about LGBT issues.
As Cattaneo said, “films are the perfect way to make homosexuality visible in a sensitive way [because] often movements begin that way, with cultural activities”.
He added that he was particularly impressed by the bravery of the Kenyan filmmakers, who tackled prejudices and created productions, illustrating the fears that the community feels.
OUT festival organisers have said that it will now be a yearly event.
Gay Kenya hosts a variety of columnists including the Rev Major Kimindu, who seeks to bring awareness on how religion should support human rights and sexual identity, and David Kuria who will be running for the position of Senator for Kiambu County in 2012.
The organisation is also currently in the process of producing a documentary on 'Being Gay' in Kenya.
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Kisumu, where some folks are eating well, while others are going hungry
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Achebe’s body arrives home
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Eritrea's Afeworki: reviled and revered ex-rebel
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
- Equatorial Guinea to finance key Liberian projects
Beyond the ballot