Now Reading
Banned lesbian film becomes second-highest grossing Kenyan film of all time

Banned lesbian film becomes second-highest grossing Kenyan film of all time

A scene from the film Rafiki

The Kenyan film banned for its ‘lesbian content’ became the top performing film for the week it screened in cinemas.

Censors banned Rafiki but its director took the government to court to overturn the ban. Director, Wanuri Kahiu, wants to put Rafiki in the running to win a Best Foreign Language Oscar, but to do so the film needed to screen in its home country for at least seven days.

In September a court ruled to temporarily suspend the ban and audiences rushed to see the film. The distributors rushed to add extra screenings to meet up with demand. Cinemas still had to turn away due to packed cinemas.

Bigger than Hollywood

But now it has been revealed that in the short space of seven days, Rafiki became the second highest grossing Kenyan of all time. It one week, Rafiki grossed US$33,000. It even beat Hollywood blockbusters, The Nun and Night School at the box office.

‘Thank you so much to all of you who came out and watched the film. Thank you for celebrating Kenyan film with us! We are so grateful. As we return to court to
argue for freedom of expression, we carry you with us,’ Wanuri said.

Rafiki’s success shows Kenyans want to see local, diverse content.

‘The success of the theatrical release proves that there is a strong commercial market for Rafiki in Kenya, ‘ said producer Steven Markovitz.

‘We intend to take this film to other African countries to continue to build the case that quality African films are commercially viable on our own continent.’

Now the filmmakers are fighting for Rafiki to be permanently unbanned.

‘The ongoing case provides an opportunity for the courts to give meaning, progressively interpret and to breathe life into theConstitutional guarantee of the right to freedom of expression, that includes artistic creativity,’ said Wanuri’s lawyer, Sofia Leteipan.


The film’s box office success was not the first time it made history. It also became the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.

Rafiki tells the story of two girl who despite their family’s political rivalry¬†remain close friends and fall in love.