Kenyan authorities have banned Cannes-bound LGBT love story Rafiki, saying it promotes lesbianism, which is illegal in the country. The movie, which is the first Kenyan film invited to Cannes, has met tough opposition from mainstream conservative groups and today Reuters reports that the Kenya Film Classification Board has banned the film.
“Anyone found in its possession will be in breach of law,” the board said in a tweet, referring to a colonial-era national law under which gay sex carries a sentence of 14 years in jail.
Board spokeswoman Nelly Muluka added on the social media platform: “Our culture and laws recognize family as the basic unit of society. The (board) cannot, therefore, allow lesbian content to be accessed by children in Kenya.”
The film commission used a hashtag, #KFCBbansLesbianFilm, that immediately prompted supportive tweets from Kenyans not opposed to homosexuality.
Film director Wanuri Kahiu told Reuters, “I’m really disappointed because Kenyans already have access to watch films that have LGBT content, on Netflix, and in international films shown in Kenya and permitted by the classification board itself…So to then just ban a Kenyan film because it deals with something already happening in society just seems like a contradiction.”
The film will debut in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Per its official synopsis, “Kena and Ziki long for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.” The term Rafiki means friend in KiSwahili.
Well-received drama The Wound, which also includes an LGBT theme, ran into censorship trouble earlier this year in South Africa.