Nairobi News


Lesbian-themed film ‘Rafiki’ to be screened across Africa, except Kenya

By Hilary Kimuyu December 19th, 2019 2 min read

Director Wanuri Kahiu’s joyous lesbian romance Rafiki is set to be screen across Africa, except her home country, Kenya where the film was made.

The film, which has generated acclaim and attacks in equal measure, before Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned it in April last year for depicting homosexual scenes, saw the director sued the government.

On Wednesday, Wanuri announced on Twitter that the controversial film will be released on DSTV Box Office next week across Africa.

“We are incredibly excited to announce that Rafiki will be released on DSTV BOX OFFICE on 23rd Dec across Africa (except the Republic of Kenya). Congratulations to all the cast and crew! Our film is Pan-African!,” she tweeted.


Rafiki, based on the Ugandan short story Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko, follows a Kenyan Romeo and Juliet romance between the daughters of rival politicians. Kena (Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) explore first-time love in a country where being gay is illegal.

Doused with saturated colors and tender performances, Rafiki is a rarity in queer cinema with a bright and hopeful tone.

KFCB Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ezekiel Mitua, while banning the film said it works “to corrupt our culture and moral values, and to kill the institution of family.”

In September, the High Court temporarily lifted the ban on the film for seven days to allow the controversial movie to participate in the 2019 Oscars Award.

Rafiki had been submitted to the 2019 Oscars Award as Kenya’s entry in the Best Foreign language film category but it did not make the cut.

In just seven days, during the limited screening run, the film hit top of the Kenya’s box office, raking in millions of shillings from local cinemas.


The film grossed about Sh3.3 million during the short period of its screening after it was screened to over 6,500 people in major film theaters in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

In another win for Wanuri, the gay-themed film was screened in court as part of the evidence to allow the court make an informed decision as to whether the ban should be lifted.

In a ruling in June, Justice James Makau said he was satisfied that the application by Wanuri Kahiu was merited.

The judge said the film and the ban by the Kenya Film and Classification Board forms an integral part of the case.

The film has been warmly received among festival enthusiasts across the world, scoring an impressive 6 out of 10 on IMDb ratings and garnering 83 per cent and 62 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively.