Ahead of its Cannes debut as the first film to screen at the festival from Kenya, Rafiki has been banned in the country.
Director Wanuri Kahiu talked about the ban on the Kenyan morning show, KTN, saying, “Unfortunately, our film has been censored in Kenya, because it deals with matters that are uncomfortable for the Kenya Film Classification Board. 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. (The film 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.”
A copy of the ruling by the country’s film board was obtained by Variety.
In it, the board’s CEO, Ezekiel Mutua, said “with great concern” the movie’s depiction of “homosexual practices that run counter to the laws and the culture of Kenyan people. It is our considered view that the moral of the story in this film is to legitimize lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and the Board’s content classification guidelines.”
The movie has been banned despite the country feting Kaihu and approving the script. Mutua recently even called Kaihu an “icon” and said that the film address an issue that Kenyan society has been “trying to sweep…under the carpet.” “I think we need to celebrate Wanuri,” he said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, and the country has been cracking down on LGBT content, pulling the Disney Channel show Andi Mack after one of the characters was revealed to be gay.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta recently told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that gay rights were “of no importance to the people of Kenya.”
Backtracking on what he said earlier, after the president’s interview, Mutua said, “As a Board we have stood firm on this subject and will uphold the wider good of society by ensuring that film and broadcast content does not promote or legitimize homosexuality in this country.”
Kaihu hopes that the film will eventually make it to the country, saying, in the KTV on-air appearance, “Maybe this work that is in exile will also come back, and we can properly have an open discourse about our people, our children, how we’re interacting with our community, and what our role is. I’m incredibly disappointed because I believe in Kenya.”