Earlier this year, the Cannes Film Festival played host to at least one film that was entirely illegal to show or possess in its home country: Wanuri Kahiu’s LGBTQ romance film Rafiki, which has been outlawed in Kahiu’s native Kenya. The film tells the story of a growing love between two young women, Kena and Ziki (played by actresses Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva), in a country where sodomy is still a felony, and where same-sex marriage is banned under the national constitution. Now, though, a Kenyan judge has lifted the ban on the film—temporarily. Kahiu successfully sued the country’s government to get her movie a seven-day run in theaters, i.e., the minimum amount required in order to submit a movie for Oscar consideration for Best Foreign Film. “I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film,” the judge in question said during her ruling. After the seven-day period is up, the film will once again be banned. Meanwhile, Kahiu expressed her happiness at the court’s decision—saying “I remained hopeful that our constitution is strong. I believe it is our right as creators to reflect society and it is our role to talk about all subjects”—while also making it clear that she intends to continue fighting to have her movie’s ban lifted for good.
Published in Daily Times, September 24th 2018.