A short film full of importance and compassion, Lia Campbell’s excellent Shee tells the tale of a same-sex couple stuck in an impossible quandary in a country that is all too willing to prosecute them for their relationship.
Shee (Julia Wairimu Laval) and Magnus (Michelle Chebet Tiren) are a couple in a polyamorous relationship. On a night out, Magnus finds herself pulled toward Leo, and they spend the night together. A few weeks later, Magnus discovers she is unexpectedly pregnant with Leo’s child. Shee and Magnus have a vital discussion ahead of them.
Getting pregnant at the best of times, while joyous, can be terrifying, but for a couple like Shee and Magnus, the revelation that Magnus throws their relationship upside down. Not because of how Magnus got pregnant but because of what they now face in their homeland of Kenya. They live in a country where, for LGBTIQA+ citizens, getting caught being intimate as a same-sex couple could get them 14 years in prison. So, you can see there would be clearly no possible scenario where Shee could present themselves as a parent to the unborn child, thus extinguishing the hopeful prospect that Magnus has of being a family.
It’s a horrible and cruel situation the couple find themselves in here in Shee, one that is occurring all over not only Kenya but across the world. Lia Campbell takes great care and attention to showing us both sides of the conversation. Magnus is obviously overjoyed at the prospect of being a mother. They are more concerned about whether Shee is okay with the pregnancy. Shee’s distance and insular attitude towards Magnus and the situation for both of them aren’t about the relationship; they are concerned and even afraid of what the pregnancy and future look like for the three of them. Even shakily asking if they said they did not want the baby would end their relationship.
For such a sensitive and important topic, you need to have actors who can nail the weight of the story. In Shee, we have that with Julia Wairimu Laval and Michelle Chebet Tiren. They both give strong performances, with Laval being a nervous wreck, trying to broach their concerns with a continually shaking hand just in shot and a fidgety, distant performance echoing our fears for the couple. Tiren, on the other hand, plays Magnus, who has gotten the dream; they are pregnant and have the person they love the most with them. She wants to raise her baby in a world of love, and it is only when Shee reveals their fears that the realisation truly hits her.
Shee is the type of short film where you want to know what happens next, you need to know if this couple can achieve the near impossible. Instead, Lia Campbell leaves us with that glimmer of hope that although the future is uncertain for the now trio, as long as Shee and Magnus are fighting together, hope remains.
Belfast International Film Festival runs from November 2nd to November 11th. For more information on showings throughout the festival please click here.