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Film shows to sell-out crowd in Nairobi after court lifts ban

September 24, 2018

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Nairobi (Kenya): Moviegoers wait in line to watch Rafiki on Sunday.—AFP
Nairobi (Kenya): Moviegoers wait in line to watch Rafiki on Sunday.—AFP

NAIROBI: Rafiki, an acclaimed film portraying a lesbian romance that was until Friday banned in Kenya where it was made, showed on Sunday to a cheering, sold-out audience in Nairobi.

Nairobi residents will be able to watch Rafiki during daytime-only screenings at the Prestige Cinema in the capital for a week after a judge on Friday temporarily lifted a ban on the film, making it eligible to be entered for a Foreign Language Oscar. Rafiki means “friend” in the Swahili language.

To qualify as Kenya’s entry under the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2019 Academy Awards, Rafiki had to be released in the East African country.

The court ruling delighted the film-makers but angered the Kenya Film Classification Board, which banned the movie in April on the grounds that it promotes homosexuality, which is a criminal offence under a colonial-era law.

In May, Rafiki premiered at Cannes, the first Kenyan film to be selected by the prestigious festival.

After Friday’s court decision on Friday, the Kenyan censor said it still considered Rafiki morally subversive. That did not stop young Kenyans from turning out on Sunday afternoon to view the film, which the cinema ended up showing on an additional screen after more than 450 people showed up.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018