NAIROBI (Reuters) – The Kenyan manager of a movie prohibited in her home country for telling the love story of two women has filed a lawsuit seeking to lift the bar so that it can be considered for the country’s Oscars entrance, court documents reveal.
FILE PHOTO: 71st Cannes Film Festival – Screening of the movie “Summer” (Leto) in contest – Red Carpet Arrivals – Cannes, France, May 9, 2018. Director Wanuri Kahiu of”Rafiki” poses with actors Sheila Munyiva and Samantha Mugatsia. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard -/File Photo
“Rafiki”, which means friend in the Swahili language, premiered at the Cannes film festival, the first Kenyan movie to do so. It’s adapted from a award-winning short story “Jambula Tree” by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko.
To qualify as Kenya’s entrance under the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2019 Academy Awards, it must have been released in Kenya. However, the East African country banned it in April on the grounds that it promotes lesbianism. . The deadline for a launch in Kenya is Sept. 30.
Wanuri Kahiu, who directed Rafiki, lodged the suit against Kenya Film Classification Board chief Ezekiel Mutua and the country’s attorney general, the documents, seen by Reuters, reveal.
The board, which has to check scripts before filming begins, imposed the ban, saying on Twitter: “Anyone found in its possession will be in breach of legislation. ” This referred to a colonial-era law under which gay sex is punishable by 14 years in prison.
The ban represented a reversal by the board as Mutua had earlier praised the film as “a story about the realities of our time”. In 2015, the board also prohibited the sensual movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
Homosexuality is taboo across much of Africa and people that are gay face discrimination or persecution. In recent decades, however, campaigners for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights have become increasingly outspoken.
Earlier this year, Kenyan film makers had urged authorities to revamp a 1960s law which imposes limitations they say are stifling their resurgent industry.
The law, which dates from just before Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963, allows the government to “control the making and exhibit ” of audio visual material including films.
Kenya’s movie industry was worth $2 billion in 2016, up from $600 million in 2007, according to a study by the Kenya Film Commission.