Image courtesy of Big World Cinema
Temporarily unbanned movie Rafiki has topped the box office in Kenya during the seven days it was allowed to screen.
The film was banned by the Kenyan Film Classification Board in April “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans.”
On September 21, the film was temporarily unbanned by the Supreme Court so it could be shown to “willing adults” for seven days in order to make it eligible to enter the Oscars.
The Oscars Selection Committee Kenya subsequently considered but rejected Rafiki as the country's entry for Best Foreign Film.
The film’s Kenyan distributor, Trushna Patel from Crimson Media, said that while in limited release last week, Rafiki made USD $33,000, becoming the second highest grossing Kenyan film of all time.
“Over a seven day release, Rafiki has experienced a rush at Prestige Cinema only felt before at the Black Panther release earlier this year. Even though there was limited screen time allotted at the last minute after the court ruling, the film was performing to full house capacity at all shows running, a welcome scene for a Kenyan film," Patel said.
The film’s director and screenwriter, Wanuri Kahiu, is heading back to court to fight for her constitutional right to freedom of expression so the film can be permanently unbanned in Kenya.
“The success of the theatrical release proves that there is a strong commercial market for Rafiki in Kenya. We intend to take this film to other African countries to continue to build the case that quality African films are commercially viable on our own continent. The film will be re-released in Kenya when permanently unbanned,’’ said Rafiki producer Steven Markovitz.
Rafiki made history this year when it became the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie was adapted from the award-winning short story Jambula Tree by Ugandan writer Monica Arac and is the story of Kena and Ziki, two girls who are forced to choose between happiness and safety when they fall in love.
Rafiki is currently screening at film Festivals around the world, including the London Film Festival on October 13, the Adelaide Film Festival in Australia on October 16 and 19 and the Chicago Film Festival on October 18.