Photo courtesy of Big World Cinema
Kenya High Court Justice Wilfrida Okwany has temporarily lifted a country-wide ban on lesbian love story Rafiki, allowing the film to be shown to “willing adults” for seven days in order to make it eligible to enter the Oscars.
“I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that it cannot handle a gay theme. There are Kenyans who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today,” Justice Okwany said on Friday.
The film’s director Wanuri Kahiu sued the Kenya Film Classification Board and the country’s attorney general in a bid to get her film released before September 30 so she can enter it in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars for 2019.
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, however the Kenyan Film Classification Board announced in April that the movie was banned from screening in the country “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans.”
Kahiu was in a French airport on her way to LA when she was notified of the ruling.
"I am crying. In French airport. In SUCH Joy! Our constitution is STRONG! Give thanks to freedom of expression!!!! WE DID IT! We will be posting about Nairobi screening soon. Follow @rafikimovie," she tweeted.
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said of the ruling: “Wanuri Kahiu has created a compelling and universal story which provides hope that all Kenyans one day will be free to live openly and celebrate the person they love.”
"The story of Rafiki is needed, not only to move more Kenyans to accept LGBTQ people but also, to shine a light on the truly unjust nature of criminalization laws against LGBTQ people in Kenya and other countries."
"The decision to screen the film in Kenya - enabling it to be considered as among the country’s best by the Academy Awards — is an important signal to the world that LGBTQ Kenyans will never be silenced.”