The head of Kenya’s film commission has slammed a decision to impose a domestic ban a Kenya-made film about lesbian love that received a standing ovation at this month’s Cannes festival.
“Rafiki”, based on an award-winning short story, tells the tale of two young women who fall in love and was slapped with a ban by the boss of the Kenya Film Classification Board who objected to “its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism”.
Chris Foot, who heads the Kenya Film Commission, tasked with promoting film-making in the East African country, said Friday the ban was “ridiculous”.
“This is about freedom of expression,” Foot told a press conference in Nairobi, adding “the constitution is very clear about freedom of expression.”
When “Rafiki” — meaning “friend” in Kiswahili — premiered at Cannes it became the first Kenyan film to be shown at the prestigious festival and drew widespread praise for its director Wanuri Kahiu.
However, a combination of colonial-era laws, long since overturned in Britain but still applied in its former possessions, and Christian fundamentalism mean homosexuality is both illegal and considered immoral by many in Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, leading to the film’s ban.
But the decision has divided both Kenyans and their government with Foot at odds with his counterpart, Ezekiel Mutua of the classification board.
Foot pointed out that films depicting murder, theft and other crimes have not been banned in Kenya and that the film’s cast are acting.
He said it was therefore “ridiculous” to ban the film on the basis that it shows “illegal or immoral” things.
“This is a film that we will continue to support,” Foot said.