Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu has sued the Kenya Film Classification Board and the country’s attorney general for banning the film because it focused on a romance between two women.
The film is the first from Kenya to show at Cannes, but despite the honor, writes BuzzFeed News’ Tamerra Griffin, “the classification board, headed by CEO Ezekiel Mutua, found that there was ‘a clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya’ in the film, which, it said, goes against the law.” In Kenya, same-sex intercourse is illegal.
Kahiu wants the film to be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, but foreign film candidates have to be shown in their country of origin first before it can throw its hat into the ring. As she told Vanity Fair, Kahiu hopes the lawsuit will allow the selection committee to view the film and submit it for Oscar consideration.
“Kahiu’s complaint argues that in preventing the distribution of Rafiki, the classification board violated several articles of the constitution that protect free speech and freedom of creative expression,” wrote Griffin.
That focus on creative expression is what Kahiu believes got her film banned in the first place. In her interview with Vanity Fair, Kahiu stated that she thinks the film’s uplifting message of positive same-sex relationships is what the board reacted to the most.
“It’s not a government’s right to say what you can imagine and what you cannot imagine. And who is allowed to exist,” she said. “That’s not a way that you can run a country because we’re made up of diverse people.”
For Rafiki to get a chance to become an Oscar contender, she must be able to show the film before September 30, the deadline for nomination submissions. The clock is ticking.