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2019 OSCAR ENTRY

Lesbian film stirs controversary – behavior illegal in Kenya

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A film writer whose recent piece of work was banned by the Kenya Films Classification Board over claims that its content promotes lesbianism has taken her protests to the corridors of justice reports Maureen Kakah for the Nairobi News.

Together with a lobby dubbed Creative Economy Working Group, Ms Wanuri Kahiu sued KFCB and its boss Ezekiel Mutua over a film called Rafiki.

They want the High Court to temporarily lift the ban since it was to be submitted to the 2019 Oscars Award as Kenya’s entry to the Best Foreign language film category.

They also want the Kenya Films Classification guidelines 2012 to be declared illegal and that they should be awarded Sh8.5 million as compensation for projected sale from theatrical distribution of Rafiki as well as loss of sponsorship.

CERTIFIED URGENT

“If this matter is not certified urgent and heard on a priority basis, it would be rendered nugatory because Ms Kahiu’s film would be left out of the competition,” said lawyers Waikwa Wanyoike and Sofia Rajab-Leteipan for the petitioners.

Entries for the said award close by September 30 whilst the ban was imposed on April 26.

Rafiki is a love story of two teenage girls who develop a romantic relationship, which is opposed by their families and community.

In the film, directed, written and co-produced by Ms Kahiu, the girls are separated by their communities.

The film was adapted from the short story Jambula Tree by Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, which was awarded the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007.

According to Ms Kahiu and the lobby, the ban on the film is contrary to the freedom of artistic creativity and that they are bound to suffer losses.

ORIGINAL SCRIPT

In their filed case documents, they claimed that they submitted the original script of the film and were granted a license by KFCB Chief Executive Officer Mutua in February last year.

They also claimed that they obtained an endorsement on the filming license upon revision of the script.

They then submitted that film for examination and rating on April 10 and sought for approval for its exhibition, distribution and broadcast in the country.

On April 16, they alleged that they were advised by Mutua to edit to remove a love song at the end and instead give a remorseful ending to the film as it allegedly legitimizes lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.

“Allowing KFCB’s decision to abide at this stage would render the question of constitutionality of the restriction academic thus defeating the administration of justice,” the lawyers said.

They want some sections of the Films and Stage Plays Act which violate the freedom of expression of artistic creativity to be declared unconstitutional.