01/05/2018

‘Rafiki’| Kenya bans film with a lesbian love theme. Watch the trailer

Blog / By ZAM Reporter
Image: film still from ‘Rafiki’ Image: film still from ‘Rafiki’

The Kenyan Film Classification Board has banned Wanuri Kahiu’s feature film ‘Rafiki’ (friend), a lesbian love story which will have its world premiere in Cannes, France, next month.

“Unfortunately, our film has been censored in Kenya, because it deals with matters that are uncomfortable for the Kenya Film Classification Board,” Kahiu said during an appearance on the ‘Morning Express’ early morning show on Kenyan network KTN. “But I truly believe that an adult Kenyan audience is mature and discerning enough to be able to watch this film and have their own conversation.” She added, “[‘Rafiki’ is] a reflection of society, and we need to be having conversations about what is happening in our society. But unfortunately, because the film has been banned, we’ll be unable to have these conversations.”

In a copy of the film board’s ruling obtained by US magazine Variety, CEO Ezekiel Mutua noted “with great concern” the movie’s depiction of “homosexual practices that run counter to the laws and the culture of Kenyan people.”

He added, “It is our considered view that the moral of the story in this film is to legitimise lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and the Board’s content classification guidelines.”

The film is the story of two teenage girls who develop a romance that is opposed by their families and community. It was adapted from the short story “Jambula Tree,” by Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, which was awarded the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007.

The ruling marks the latest move in an ongoing crackdown on LGBTI+ content in Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal. The film board last year banned the Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” after it was revealed that the show’s second season would feature a key character realising he’s gay. It had earlier pressured South African sat-caster MultiChoice to pull seven cartoons from the airwaves, because of what Mutua described as “retrogressive and bizarre messages intended to promote the [LGBT] agenda.”

The issue of gay rights in Kenya has lately been headline news, as the former British colony’s High Court hears a petition from LGBTI+ rights groups to scrap provisions in its Victorian-era penal code that implicitly outlaw gay sex. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that gay rights were “of no importance to the people of Kenya.”

Watch the trailer of 'Rafiki' here:

More on LGBTI+ in Kenyatta

In 2014, the Nairobi based The Nest Collective’s director Jim Chuchu produced the first Kenyan LGTBI+ themed film, The Stories of Our Lives.

In the same year the countries’ writer Binyavanga Wainaina came out as a gay man. Watch an interview here.