Kenya-set lesbian love drama Rafiki looks set to join the ranks of one of the most talked-about same-sex movies of recent years.
However, the film – which centres on the attraction two young women feel for one another – has just suffered a blow. Film censors in Kenya announced a ban on the movie screening in the country.
News of the censoring comes just days before it receives its world premiere as part of the Cannes Film Festival in France.
The Kenya Film Classification Board confirmed the decision on Twitter. It said: ‘The Board has RESTRICTED a local film titled ‘Rafiki’ produced by Awali Entertainment Ltd. Its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya is contrary to the law.’
The Board has RESTRICTED a local film titled ‘Rafiki’ produced by Awali Entertainment Ltd. Its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya is contrary to the law.#KFCBbansLesbianFilm
— KFCB (@InfoKfcb) April 27, 2018
Rafiki is directed and co-written by Wanuri Kahiu. She said during an appearance on Kenyan breakfast show Morning Express on KTN she was ‘incredibly disappointed’ at the decision.
She told the BBC, ‘I really had hoped that the classification board would classify it as an 18. Because we feel the Kenyan audience is a mature, discerning enough audience.
‘I feel like the banning of the film does not allow the Kenyan audience to have a conversation about the film, and doesn’t allow the Kenyan audience to even watch it and as adults decide what they think.’
The head of the Kenya Film Classification Board is Ezekiel Mutua – who has a reputation for rallying against material he views as morally questionable. He took to Twitter himself yesterday to denounce the film and answer criticism of the board’s decision.
‘It’s a fallacy to claim that KFCB creates publicity for homosexual content when we ban it. If some perverts will want to watch the illegal content, it’s not because we’ve banned it; it’s because perverts and social deviants have a knack for self destruction. #KFCBbansLesbianFilm
It's a fallacy to claim that KFCB creates publicity for homosexual content when we ban it. If some perverts will want to watch the illegal content, it's not because we've banned it; it's because perverts and social deviants have a knack for self destruction. #KFCBbansLesbianFilm pic.twitter.com/jtJnHLpbrs
— Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, MBS (@EzekielMutua) April 27, 2018
Many Kenyans have picked up on the #KFCBbansLesbianFilm hashtag to voice their approval or criticism of the decision.
Rafiki is adapted from the short story Jambula Tree by Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyko. The story won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007. It tells the story of two teenage girls, Kena and Ziki, who fall in love with one another despite the opposition of their families.
Rafiki will screen as part of the Cannes Un Certain Regard strand, where it hopes to pick up international distribution deals.