Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki Film Soars Higher Despite Kenya Ban

Renowned filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has not had the smoothest time since releasing her controversial, yet critically-acclaimed multi-award-winning film ‘Rafiki’. At least not back at home in Kenya, where the film was instantly banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) for ‘promoting lesbianism’ even before its release.

Wanuri and KFCB have since been caught in an on-going court battle after the filmmaker sued the board for violation of freedom of speech and creative expression. But even with KFCB’s adamancy to lift the ban and the controversy that continues to follow it, ‘Rafiki’ continues to be celebrated abroad. Its latest recognition being the 2019 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) – the self-proclaimed Oscars for Africa – where the film has been nominated in ten categories, including Best Film and Best Director for Wanuri.

Wanuri is no stranger to the AMAA; her first feature film ‘From a Whisper’ won five awards (including Best Picture) out of 12 nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009. Released in 2018, ‘Rafiki’ follows two young women, Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) and Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) who fall in love despite the societal pressures and homophobia around them.

It’s a daring concept, especially in a country like Kenya where the KFCB continues to crack the whip on content it dims as inappropriate, but one that has been praised for its boldness and for challenging the status quo. In return, ‘Rafiki’ has won awards, wowed audiences at film festivals and screenings worldwide, and even made history as the first Kenyan feature film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Subira, another Kenyan AMAA nominee

Another Kenyan title nominated in the Africa Movies Academy Awards that was definitely dominated by Nollywood films is Kenyan feature ‘Subira’ which was nominated in Best Achievement in Soundtrack and Best Director First Feature Film for director Ravneet Sippy Chadha. ‘Subira’ which was also recently selected as Kenya’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category, follows Brenda Wairimu (Selina/Monica) in the titular role of ‘Subira’ as she struggles to break free from traditions and an arranged marriage to follow her own dreams.

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