Banned lesbian love story Rafiki on DStv Boxoffice

Rafiki will be available on DStv Box Office from 23 December 2019, allowing subscribers to download the highly praised film on their PVR decoder and online, except in Kenya where the film remains banned.

Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s movie, Rafiki (‘friend’), tells the story of a romance that blossoms between two young women, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva). They encourage one another to pursue their wildest dreams in their conservative society, and amid family and political pressures.

It’s a colourful story that pulsates with the rhythm of first love. One of the highlights of 2019’s African film industry, Rafiki was the first Kenyan film to screen at Cannes.

Like South Africa’s Inxeba (2018), Rafiki was not without controversy. The film was banned from cinemas in Kenya for “promoting” same-sex relationships, a decision that was widely criticised. Kahiu started a lawsuit against the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) to challenge the unconstitutionality of the ban on the basis of freedom of expression and artistic freedom.

The High Court agreed to temporarily lift the ban for seven days. Rafiki made $33 000 in gross earnings, in that week of release, making it the second-highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time.

More than 6500 people flocked to cinemas in Kenya and hundreds were turned away with theatres reaching full capacity. The film has been released in cinemas across Europe, North America, Brazil and upcoming in Japan.

International news website Insider recently included the film on its ‘50 best movies of the year’ list. It has screened at over 150 film festivals worldwide and has won more than 20 awards, including six audience choice awards. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a critics score of 94%.

Kahiu and the Creative Economy Working Group (a network of 18 organisations in the arts and culture sector) continue to sue the KFCB for their right to freedom of expression. The court case is ongoing, with the judgement expected on 26 March 2020.

Rafiki is co-written by Jenna Bass, a South African film director and was produced by South African Steven Markovitz, who has been producing fiction and documentaries for more than 20 years in countries throughout Africa.

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