Kenya’s banned ‘Rafiki’ to close off Durban International Film Fest

Director Wanuri Kahiu

Kenyan LGBT love story, Rafiki, has been announced as the closing film at the 2018 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in July.

Rafiki is a movie based on the award-winning short story, Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko. It is a coming of age film about two Kenyan girls who fall in love and whose desires for each other flies in the face of African “conventions.”

The groundbreaking movie was recently banned by the Kenyan Film and Classification Board (KFCB).

The board’s CEO, Ezekial Mutua, said it was censored due to its homosexual theme and its “clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”

The movie’s director, Wanuri Kahiu, was reportedly instructed to remove what the board described as “offensive classifiable elements” and resubmit it for reclassification, but refused to do so. She said the reason why she had created the film was to highlight worrying developments in the anti-LGBTI climate in East Africa.

“This has muffled conversations about LGBTI rights and narrowed the parameters of freedom of speech,” explained Kahiu. “My hope is that the film is viewed as an ode to love, whose course is never smooth, and as a message of love and support to the ones among us who are asked to choose between love and safety. May this film shout where voices have been silenced.”

Despite the movie being banned in its home country, the love story was invited to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May this year.

“We are delighted to be able to screen Rafiki at DIFF,” said Chipo Zhou, manager of DIFF. “The film speaks to the issues of patriarchy that has led the film to be banned in its own country, and closes the festival with a programme packed with films dealing with a host of current challenges that those marginalised in our society, and especially women, are ‘loudly’ grappling with.”

The DIFF will be celebrating its 39th anniversary this year. The opening film will be a South African thriller called The Tokoloshe, by Jerome Pikwane. The festival is set to take place from July 19 until July 29.

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