Kenya Film Classification Board Bans Film; Ban Briefly Suspended by Kenya High Court

In April, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s film Rafiki due to “its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.” Rafiki, a coming-of-age love story named after the Swahili word for “friend,” was the first Kenyan feature film to be selected for screening at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. Ms. Kahiu filed suit against the KFCB for its purported enforcement of colonial-era morality laws that have been since superseded by the Constitution of Kenya as promulgated in 2010. Shortly before the submission deadline for consideration at the Academy Awards (which requires at least a week’s screening in the film’s home country to qualify), the High Court of Kenya ruled to allow a seven-day viewing period in select theaters. During this initial run, Rafiki became the second-highest-grossing Kenyan film in history. More than 6,500 people saw the film and many more were turned away as cinemas sold out. Ms. Kahiu, a Catholic since birth, has stated that the church has been receptive: “I had a conversation with a priest who reflected on the words of the Pope who said ‘God made you the way you are and God loves you the way you are.’” Her case continues in court.

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