'Rafiki' director Wanuri Kahiu sues KFCB, seeking Sh8.5 million

Wanuri Kahiu [Photo: Courtesy]

After her film was selected for the Cannes Film Festival sometime this year, Wanuri Kahiu’s joy was short-lived after it was almost simultaneously banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board.

Fast-forward to September and the renowned film director and producer has taken KFCB to court for banning the movie 'Rafiki' due to what it termed as the promotion of lesbianism.

Adapted from 'Jambula Tree' by Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, 'Rafiki' follows the story of two young girls who have a romantic relationship but is strongly condemned and opposed by their families and community.

According to reports, the lawsuit had been filed against KFCB demanding a change to the law that has been used in recent years to ban several films from being showcased in the country including 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'

Through her advocates, Kanuri argues that the board has violated her right to free speech and freedom of creative expression further adding that they are bound to suffer losses. All this after they claimed they obtained necessary licenses from KFCB.

“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,” her lawyers Waikwa Wanyoike and Sofia Rajab-Leteipan were quoted saying.

Wanuri and the complaint's co-petitioner, the Creative Economy Working Group, also seeks Sh8.5 million compensation for loss of sponsorship and projected sales from the distribution of the film.

“I don’t necessarily consider myself an activist; I truly consider myself a storyteller,” Wanuri said on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered in North America on Thursday.

“But when somebody starts to infringe on your rights to be creative and exercise your work, which becomes a problem. That’s when we decided to push back and take the Classification Board to court,'' she was quoted saying.

Following the ‘moral police’ actions, 'Rafiki' may be left out in the Oscar nominations.

In order to be eligible for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a movie must have been shown in the country submitting it first, which in this case did not happen.

As it stands, the September 30th deadline for submission is two weeks away from giving her time to launch her complaints.

Despite the challenges, 'Rafiki' made history in April as the first Kenyan film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

It has screened in other African countries including Ghana, South Africa and most recently to a sold-out crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Efforts to reach the KFCB boss Ezekiel Mutua bore no fruit.

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