‘Rafiki,’ a Kenyan film on LGBTQ+ might be on its way to winning the Oscars after a Kenyan judge lifted the ban on the screening of the movie in cinemas.
According to a report by Variety, the Wanuri Kahiu’s film will have the opportunity to screen in cinemas before the September 30, 2018 deadline for submission by the movie academy.
On Friday, September 21, 2018, a Kenyan judge temporarily lifted the ban on the movie paving the way for the LGBT love story to go further after its world premiere at the Cannes.
‘Rafiki’ is aiming at nabbing the foreign-language Oscar award alongside other movies from around the world.
ALSO READ: Rafiki director sues Kenyas Film Board for ban on film
The legal battle on Kenyan LGBT film
The legal battle on ‘Rafiki’ became a global knowledge when the Kenya Film Classification Board, CEO Ezekiel Mutua, banned “Rafiki” from local theaters in April 2018.
The film board had described the film as its depiction of “homosexual practices that run counter to the laws and the culture of Kenyan people.”
The board’s CEO also suggested that ‘Rafiki’ was an attempt to “legitimize lesbianism” in Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal.
Unhappy with the ban, Kahiu filed a lawsuit against the film board on Sept. 11, contending that banning the film violated her constitutional right as an artist to free speech and free expression.
The filmmaker also sued for 8.5 million Kenyan shillings (around $ 84,200) in compensation for projected lost revenues from a local theatrical run.
On Friday, Judge Wilfrida Okwany’s ruling overturned a decision by the Kenya Film Classification Board while opening the door for ‘Rafiki’ to join the foreign-language Oscar race, which requires that nominees must be shown in their country of origin for seven consecutive days.
Judge’s ruling on Kenyan LGBT film
According to Variety, Judge Wilfrida Okwany, in her ruling, said she was “not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.”
The judge further noted that one of the reasons for artistic creativity is to stir the society’s conscience even on very vexing topics such as homosexuality.
The judge further said such creative works stirring society’s conscience did not begin with ‘Rafiki.’
‘Rafiki’ tells the story of two teenage girls whose romance is opposed by their families and community.
The film is an adaptation of Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story “Jambula Tree.”
ALSO READ: “Rafiki” receives massive applause at Cannes Film Festival
The short story was awarded the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007.
Our abilities to tell stories is what makes us human – Kahiu
Speaking to Variety before the ruling was announced, Kahiu said: “The petition against the Kenya Film Classification Board is larger than ‘Rafiki’’s theatrical run. It’s the fight for our right to work in creative spaces and our constitutional rights as artists to freedom of expression and freedom of creativity. Our ability to express ourselves and tell stories is truly what makes us human. Silencing us won’t change that.”