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Lesbian Film Rafiki Sells Out After Kenya Lifts Ban

Lesbian Film Rafiki Sells Out After Kenya Lifts Ban


Kenyan audiences are coming out in droves to see the drama, which had been banned because censors claimed it would "promote lesbianism."

After Kenya's Film and Classification Board briefly lifted its ban on lesbian film Rafiki so it can be in the running for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, its screenings have sold out.

In a recent ruling the board permitted Kenyans over the age of 18 to view the film from September 23 to 29, CNN reports. Anxious not to miss the film, which tells the story of two Kenyan women who fall for each other and are forced to choose between a happy life or a safe one, audiences are not leaving a seat to spare throughout the week of screenings.

Originally the board banned Rafiki because it would "promote lesbianism." "The film has been restricted due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law," the body wrote.

In Kenya, "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" is forbidden by law. Anyone engaging in same-sex relations can be imprisoned for up to 14 years. The African nation also has a history of arresting men and forcing them to undergo anal examinations to prove if they are gay. This June, Kenya's first Pride was met with death threats.

The film board's CEO, Ezekiel Mutua, remains adamant that Rafiki is toxic for Kenyan culture. However, in 2017, he also claimed that a pair of male lions photographed mating on a Kenya reserve were "crazy gay animals" under demonic possession.

"These animals need counseling because probably they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly," Mutua told Nairobi News. "The demonic spirits inflicting in humans seems to have now caught up with animals."

Demonic spirits at work or not, after a legal battle in which director Wanuri Kahiu's lawyers argued that censoring the film was an attack on free speech, the board decided to temporarily lift the ban.

Rafiki's screening for seven consecutive days meets the standard laid out by the Motion Picture Academy for a film to be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

In the meantime, Rafiki is winning international acclaim. This year it was the first Kenyan feature to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival. It is also screening at festivals in the U.K. and Nigeria.

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