Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu is suing the Kenyan government and it’s all about the Oscars

Wanuri Kahiu

Remember Wanuri Kahiu? How can you not!? The director whose lesbian film Rafiki was historic for being the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and was banned in her native country Kenyan because it centered on love story between two women. It was pressure from a country’s film regulatory body exercising what they felt was in the interest of the majority. According to BuzzFeed, the Kenyan director has filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Kenyan Classification Board (KFCB) and the country’s attorney general.

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In order to be eligible for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a movie must have been shown in the country but Rafiki – which tells the story of two young women from different political backgrounds who fall in love – was denied a general release by KFCB.

The deadline for Oscar nomination submission is September 30, which means Kahiu has two weeks to have results swing in her favour. Wanuri Kahiu’s complaint in the lawsuit 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. While homosexuality is technically not against the law in Kenya, same sex intercourse is considered a felony and is punishable by to 14 years in prison.

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From my research, there’s a currently a case in the nation’s high court challenging the constitutionality of those penal codes, which petitioners say are colonial holdovers that haven’t been amended since 1967.  Since making history, Rafiki has screened in Ghana and South Africa and most recently to a sold-out crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival. Fingers crossed, it will be interesting to see how Kahiu’s case against the Kenyan government pans out.

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