By Winnie Kabintie
The producers of Kenya’s controversial LGBT film, Rafiki, got a reprieve on Friday last week following a ruling by the high court that temporarily lifted the ban imposed on the movie in April by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).
The ruling has allowed Rafiki to be screened locally for seven days, making it meet a requirement to qualify for an entry at the 2019 Oscars, where the producers are planning to compete in the “Best Foreign Language Film “category.
Rafiki, Swahili for Friend, made history in April after it became Kenya’s first film to be selected to premiere at the prestigious Cannes Festival in France, where it got an overwhelming eight-minute standing ovation.
KFCB CEO DR Ezekiel Mutua has maintained that the film’s homosexuality theme is in bad taste and is a threat to the family unit.
Mutua further accused foreign NGO’s of funding the film Rafiki in an effort to push the gay agenda in Kenya.
“We wish to emphasize the fact that films made in Kenya for public consumption MUST reflect and respect the dominant values of the Kenyan society. Any attempt to introduce and normalize homosexuality in Kenya flies in the face of the law and the constitution and must be resisted. Hare-brained schemes by foreigners funding film producers in Kenya to promote homosexuality in the name of equality and inclusion will be exposed and strongly resisted,” he said.
Mutua maintained that KFCB will ensure that the screening of Rafiki in Kenya remains outlawed after the seven days grace period awarded by the court.
“We have obeyed the court order. After the 30th of September, the ban remains. We shall pursue this matter vigorously,” he said.
Wanuri Kahiu, the film’s director, has however condemned the position taken by KFCB and accused Mutua of curtailing artist’s creativity.
The film is an adaptation of a prize-winning short story “Jambula Tree” by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko.
RAFIKI FILM REVIEW
Rafiki revolves around a queer love story between two teenage girls, Kena and Ziki, who find themselves struggling to cope with identity issues and the social acceptance of their unnatural love affair.
At some point in the film, the love story almost comes to an end when Ziki is conflicted on the end game of that kind of a relationship but the story takes a different twist in the end, that although the writer’s tried to leave it for imagination, provides a hopeful ending for the two.
This “hopeful ending” was one of the key elements that KFCB had found offensive and allegedly asked Wanuri to alter but she declined.
As a great enthusiast of local films, after watching Rafiki on Tuesday evening I can confidently state that it’s a great movie that captures a true Kenyan story in every way.
I have watched quite a number of local films that have been churned out after the famous Nairobi Half Life, which resonated so well with the public as they could relate with the theme, and I must say; I have not seen a film that brings the Kenyan neighborhood culture to life as Rafiki does.
The LGBT theme aside, the story captures life of growing up in Nairobi’s rundown middle-income estates, the agony of conservative parents trying to bring up liberal children and the intricates of the political landscape especially that brought about by devolution and the scramble by every Tom and dick to vie for that Member Of County Assembly (MCA) position just mention a few.
The writers of the film play with emotions and beautiful afro music soundtracks to capture the viewer’s attention and set the mood for the scenes.
The cast comprises seasoned actors, who did a sterling performance. Interestingly, the protagonist Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) was making her first debut in acting.
As much as homosexuality is a culture that is highly frowned upon in Kenya, it’s gaining popularity by day with a few characters coming out openly to declare their inclinations and as such I feel as though the film serves to open up conversation on the whole LGBT culture not to “normalize” it but acknowledge that “IT IS HERE, HOW DO WE DEAL WITH IT”?
Cast: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Jimmy Gathu, Nini Wacera, Nice Githinji, Muthoni Gathecha, Patricia Amira, Dennis Musyoka, Patricia Kihoro
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
Screenwriters: Wanuri Kahiu, Jenna Bass, Producer: Steven Markovitz
Executive producer: Tim Headington
Director of photography: Christopher Wessels
Production designer: Arya Lalloo
Costume designer: Wambui Thimba
Editor: Isabelle Dedieu
Casting: Nini Wacera