On 15th October 2014, the Kenya Police accompanied by representatives from the Department of Film Services, officials from the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts (famous for their mission to contribute to overall national development through promotion and exploitation of Kenya’s diverse culture for peaceful co-existence) visited the NEST to effect an arrest for our alleged contravention of Cap 222 - The Film and Stage Plays Act - by shooting the Stories Of Our Lives Film without acquiring a licence to do so from the Department. George Gachara - Executive Producer of the film - was arrested and taken to the Kilimani Police Station. He was later released on a cash bail of KES 10,000 and scheduled to appear in Kibera Law Courts on 17th October. THE ISSUES Films shot in Kenya require a licence from the Department of Film Services. This licence is obtained by presenting a copy of the entire script in question to the Department, who then review it and subsequently make the decision to grant or deny the licence to shoot such script. To quote from the Act: “Every application for a filming licence shall be made to the licensing officer in writing and shall be accompanied by a full description of the scenes in, and the full text of the spoken parts (if any) of, the entire film which is to be made, notwithstanding that part of the film is made or to be made outside Kenya. Provided that the licensing officer may in his discretion in any particular case accept an application notwithstanding that it is not accompanied by such description and text if he has been given such other information as he requires for the determination of the application.” — The Kenya Film and Stage Plays Act (2010) What is at stake for us? To quote from the Act: Any person who is guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both such fine and imprisonment. — The Kenya Film and Stage Plays Act We’re unable to comment further on the details of this case at this time, because this is a matter that is still under legal deliberation and any opinions can be read as prejudicial. HOW YOU CAN HELP The most common question we are getting from Kenyans in Kenya on our phones, inboxes and in conversations is “can we watch the film privately/at night/via BitTorrent/on YouTube/with the lights down low/under the bed/on mute etc.?” or, “Can you guys give us the film on a flash drive or leave it on the street, in a bar, at my church, somewhere for us to find”? There are no secret, underground, extralegal, extraterritorial or online screenings of Stories of Our Lives happening anywhere in Kenya, and we are not giving out the film, selling it or otherwise distributing it in Kenya in any way, shape or form. There are serious legal ramifications for violating the restriction by the Kenya Film Classifications Board on Stories of Our Lives. Right now, our primary focus is on getting past the legal issues safely. The other question we’re getting is “how do we help”? The honest answer is, we don’t know yet. We are juggling many factors, many opinions and a lot of wise counsel from different quarters. We will soon figure out exactly what help we need and communicate that widely the moment we do. THANK YOU Thank you to everyone who’s called, emailed, shared, retweeted, called lawyers and given us hugs and cookies. You are a welcome and much-needed break from the madness and fuckery.
On 30th September 2014, we applied for a classification of Stories Of Our Lives from the Kenya Film Classification Board in line with legislation regarding the public screening of films in Kenya. On 3rd October, we received communication that the Kenya Film Classification Board has restricted the distribution and exhibition of Stories of Our Lives to the public in line with section 16(c) of the Film and Stage Plays Act (download as PDF). This, because the film “has obscenity, explicit scenes of sexual activities and it promotes homosexuality which is contrary to our national norms and values”. This means that there will be NO further screenings, sale and/or distribution of Stories Of Our Lives in Kenya. Does the film include obscenity? Yes. In one scene, an angry young man hurls insults at his best friend who he saw visiting a gay bar. Does the film include explicit scenes of sexual activities? That depends on your definition of “explicit”. Let’s just say the average viewer of Kenyan music videos would find the one depiction of sex in Stories Of Our Lives, very, very not explicit. Facebook post regarding the restriction (via KFCB Facebook Page). Does the film promote homosexuality? How exactly does one “promote homosexuality”? Pink leaflets handed out to unsuspecting passers-by? Is homosexuality some kind of fad, or like a cold you can catch from greeting someone in the bus? It is clear that the board thinks that Kenyan adults are unable to safely watch this film without turning into a horde of virulent, flaming homosexuals (one hopes members of the Board were not afflicted by “gayism” after watching the film). Does the film transgress “national norms and values”? Stories Of Our Lives is a film about people, it’s about co-existence, it’s about finding love and belonging. We made this film to open dialogue about identities, what it means to be Kenyan, and what it means to be different. By placing a restriction on this film, the Board has chosen to delay this inevitable conversation. We hope Kenyans will get to see this film one day, because we made it for Kenyans. For those Kenyans who happen to be abroad, stay up to date with our international film screenings here. For Kenyans at home, you can listen to the soundtrack here or download it here. Hopefully, you won’t “catch gayism” from listening to it. :)
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