There are many different kinds of documentary that you get at Hot Docs. There are portraits of an individual, exposes, talking head documentaries, and the like. My personal favorites are the essay films, although, we don’t get too many of those. As a result, a close second is the vérité styled documentary, that provides an intimate look at its subject matter.
Peter Murimi’s I Am Samuel is one of these documentaries. The premise is delightfully simple. The film follows the life of a young gay Kenyan man, who balances familial responsibility with his own hopes and dreams, all while navigating the tumultuous repression of homosexuality in the society at large. Murimi’s camerawork is delightfully handheld. It rarely feels like the film is imposing its will upon the characters. Instead, the narrative unfolds in front of us, as the real-life people involved are afforded the ability to simply exist within the space.
It feels difficult to understate who refreshing this simplicity feels. Simultaneously, it feels just as difficult to truly describe what makes I Am Samuel strong. The film is almost a perfect length. From a cinematic standpoint, the film also has a wonderful color grade that breathes life into the world around it. Meanwhile Ricardo Acosta and Phil Jandaly provide sneaky strong editing, the kind that invisibly goes unnoticed but helps direct the flow of the film. There’s a genuine all-around competency to Murimi’s film that’s understated and doesn’t really hit you until you get deep into its arresting rhythms. My one notable critique is that the film can drag at points, but this is one of the stronger entries of this year’s festival.
You can go to Hot Docs right here to find out how to watch I Am Samuel and anything else playing at the festival.