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Lesbian film vying for Oscars glory is a sold out hit after Kenya lifts ban

Lesbian film vying for Oscars glory is a sold out hit after Kenya lifts ban

two women face each other smiling, one is wearing yellow framed glasses, the other has long pink and blue dreadlocks

A lesbian film banned in Kenya has sold out all its planned sessions after a court temporarily suspended the ban.

Rafiki became the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival and hoped to compete for next year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar. But Kenya banned the film because of its ‘homosexual theme’.

But to be eligible for an Oscar nomination in that category, films have to screen in their home country for at least seven days.

So, Rafiki’s director, Wanuri Kahiu took the government to court to overturn the ban. Last week, a court ruled the Rafiki could be screened in Kenya for seven days, thus making it eligible for the Oscars.

‘Gay themes or the practice of homosexuality did not begin with Rafiki,’ Judge Okwanny said in her ruling.

‘I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.’

Sell out run

Rafiki hit theaters on 22 September with all session selling out quickly. Producers have had to schedule more screenings to keep up with demand.

One member of Kenya’s LGBTI community explained why seeing Rafiki was so important.

‘This week means so much to so many people,’ Vicky told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘People can see themselves on screen and they can know that it is okay to express themselves in that way.’

Rafiki tells the story of best friends Kena and Ziki. The women wish for something different than becoming good Kenyan wives. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and support each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two will have to choose between happiness and safety.


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