September 16, 2020
Africa’s largest film festival has awarded a Kenyan actress for her depiction of a lesbian character in a film that is banned in her own country.
Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso gave Samantha Mugatsia the best actress award for her lead role in the film Rafiki.
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned the film last year for “promoting lesbianism”.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya – a legacy of British colonial-era rule.
Gay sex is punishable by 14 years in Kenya but the country’s High Court is due to rule on whether to strike down the ban in May.
KFCB had previously warned that anyone found in possession of the film would be in breach of the law.
The Kenya Film Classification Board used many of the same arguments to ban Rafiki. In a letter banning the film, Ezekiel Mutua, the outspoken and controversial head of the KFCB, said the film “undermined the sensibilities” of Kenyans.
“Rafiki contains homosexual scenes that are against the law, the culture and moral values of the Kenyan people,” Mutua said in a statement in April. “The film seeks to overtly promote lesbianism.”
Hundreds had come to watch Rafiki, a movie about two young Kenyan women who are full of life, joy and wonder. Kena is a great student; she plays football and hangs out with the guys. And Ziki is the free spirit — cotton candy dreads and a smile full of mischief.
At one point, inside an abandoned van, the two realize they’ve fallen for each other. They touch, they look in each others’ eyes. At the theater, you could almost hear the audience holding its breath — and as their lips touched, there was applause.
Rafiki, which means “friend” in Swahili, traces a coming-of-age love story between two young women who meet and fall in love.
The film is based on Jambula Tree, a prize-winning short story by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko.
Reacting to the lead actress’s win, the film’s director Wanuri Kahiu tweeted: The oldest African film festival acknowledged a queer character… So proud! Queerness cannot be silenced!”
Source – bbc.com, npr.org