On 21st September 2018, a court temporarily lifted the ban on the film Rafiki, allowing it to be theatrically run in Kenya. The film is LGBT themed and tells the story of two young women that fall in love. The makers of the film had sued to have the ban lifted so that the film could qualify for consideration for an Oscar in the foreign language film category.
While delivering the judgement, judge Okwany argued, “I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.” She also added that homosexuality in life and in art “did not begin with Rafiki”. The lifting of the ban is only temporary though. It will only be in effect for a week which is about the minimum time required for a film to qualify for consideration in the category.
Within minutes of the judgement being delivered, Rafiki was trending on twitter and, while most people were in support of the decision to lift the ban, Ezekiel Mutua, the head of the Kenya Film classification board, (KFCB) was particularly not amused. KFCB, a government run agency, was responsible for the ban placed on the film and Mutua himself had been on an active campaign against it for months. Today he seemed particularly infuriated, going on a tweet rant against the film and what he perceived to be a “foreign agenda” to push homosexuality in Kenya. The tweets included threats to theatres that intended to show the film and to other parties involved in the film, tweeting “… we are watching to see which public theatre will exhibit it without the board’s approval.” And “… our next target will be these foreigners operating in Kenya to ruin our moral fabric. They should all be deported.”
Ezekiel Mutua is of course known to be a rather homophobic person. Earlier this year, when two male lions were pictured in a seemingly intimate position at the Maasai Mara national park, he is quoted to have said in an interview “these animals need counselling, because probably they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly” and, “they must have copied it from somewhere, or it is demonic. Because these animals do not watch movies”
All that put aside, I for one am excited for this film and I am looking forward to going out and watching it. I hope this opens doors to other film makers and story tellers to tell their stories, to not be intimidated. While I am aware that there is still a long journey ahead, I am happy that at least, we seem to be taking steps to getting somewhere.