Not to sound clichéd but as they say: when one door closes, another opens! So is the case with award-winning writer and director Wanuri Kahiu, whose queer film Rafiki was banned in Kenya after the filmmaker refused to alter the film’s portrayal of a lesbian relationship. Rafiki premiered at this year’s Cannes, and became the first Kenyan film to feature at the renowned festival.
Despite the setback, it’s safe to say that Kahiu won’t be thinking about that as she has signed a deal with The Gotham Group, an entertainment production company founded in 1994 and helmed by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein. The company has produced a spectrum of films like Abduction, The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Maze Runner franchise.
When Rafiki was banned, Kenya’s Film Classification Board had tweeted: “Anyone found in its possession will be in breach of law.” Under the national law in Kenya, gay sex carries a 14-year jail sentence. Despite the ban, Rafiki still found international distribution through Orange Studios and MPM Premium.
Born in Nairobi, Wanuri Kahiu is a part of a new generation of African storytellers receiving attention and international acclaim. Kahiu’s 2008 feature From a Whisper is based on the real events surrounding the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi for which she wrote the screenplay, won multiple awards at the Africa Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Her short sci-fi Pumzi, which she wrote and produced, is a haunting parable about a world without water. It screened at Sundance in 2010, won the Venice Film Festival’s Award of the City of Venice, and was named best short film at Cannes in 2010. With her new deal with an international production outfit, this can only be the sign of good things for Kahiu, and we wish her all the best in this journey.