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Banned Lesbian Film Rafiki Snags Best Actress Award at Festival

Banned Lesbian Film 'Rafiki' Snags Best Actress Award at Festival

Banned Lesbian Film 'Rafiki' Snags Best Actress Award at Festival

The film was banned in its country of origin for promoting lesbianism.


Being banned in Kenya, its country of origin, hasn’t stopped the lesbian film Rafiki from achieving success elsewhere.

Samantha Mugatsia just won the award for Best Actress for her starring role in the film at the Fespaco Film Festival, Africa’s largest and longest-running film festival.

Rafiki previously made headlines for being banned, and then briefly unbanned, in Kenya.

Rafiki contains homosexual scenes that are against the law, the culture and moral values of the Kenyan people,” Ezekial Mutua, head of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), said in a statement last year. “The film seeks to overtly promote lesbianism.”

The film tells the story of two girls who grow up amidst political tensions between their families, and move from a close friendship to falling in love in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

The director of the film, Wanuri Kahiu, sued the KFCB claiming that a ban stepped on her right of free speech as an artist, particularly considering a ban would preclude Rafiki from being considered for the Oscars. A temporary injunction was issued, and the movie was able to be screened for seven days in its home country, the requirement for Academy Award consideration.

While the film ultimately continues to be banned in Kenya, it’s still gaining international recognition, with it being the very first Kenyan movie to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mugatsia’s best actress award at least brings the celebration back a little closer to home.

And Kahiu is certainly celebrating, releasing the following statement on Twitter yesterday:

“Winning Best Actress for RAFIKI at FESPACO is monumental. It is not only a recognition of Kenya’s artistry and adds Kenya to the history of African cinema, but a huge recognition of Freedom of Expression within Africa.”



She added: “We have the RIGHT to tell our stories, because they are precisely that — OURS. We have the RIGHT to have all our voices heard because they are OURS. We have the RIGHT to create, because that’s how we share our humanity with the rest of the world.”

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