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Director of Kenyan lesbian film says she’s been ‘threatened with arrest’

Ella Braidwood May 14, 2018
Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu poses on May 9, 2018 during a photocall for the film "Rafiki" at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP/ Getty)

Wanuri Kahiu at the Cannes Film Festival (LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty)

The director of a Kenyan lesbian film, which debuted at Cannes Film Festival this month, says her home country has warned her with the “threat of arrest.”

Rafiki, which means friend in Swahili, is about two Kenyan girls who fall in love. It was banned in the African country after director Wanuri Kahiu reportedly refused to censor parts of the film.

According to Indian newspaper The Hindu, the director said in an interview on Friday that the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), a government body that regulates movies in the country, has threatened her with arrest.

“It seems like they are trying to build a case to imprison me… Most recently I saw them tweeting that I have broken the law,” she said.

Kahiu reportedly went on to say that she knew the film might be banned, before adding: “What we didn’t expect was the threat of arrest to me.”

(Photo: Big World Cinema)

Despite this, the director suggested she would make similar films in the future.

“I am an artiste and it’s my constitutional right to make this film. So I would do it again, and I would do it again, and I would do it again,” Kahiu said.

“I won’t stop doing my work because other people are trying to violate my right. I think it’s for them to deal with their violations.

“If they want they can arrest me and we can go to court to prove I haven’t broken the law. But I am going home. It’s where I live. I am not going to hide, I am not going into exile.

“My family is there, my children are there, my husband is not about to leave. It’s a place that inspires me, that I make films for, the place that I make films about.”

Kahiu told the BBC at Cannes that she was “incredibly sad” the movie had been banned.

“We truly hoped the Kenya Film Classification Board would respect our right as creators to express ourselves,” she said.

(Photo: Big World Cinema)

The KFCB last month denied permission for the film’s release in Kenya.

Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu has since spoken out about the decision.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Kahiu alleged that the KFCB had initially signed off on the film’s script, and only decided to ban the film after she rejected abrupt demands to give the film a sad ending.

She said: “They asked me to change the ending of the film because they didn’t feel the ending was ‘remorseful’ enough.

“They did not ask me to change any scenes of intimacy… if they had asked us to reduce the intimacy because of classification, that would have been one thing, and we would have gladly done that.

Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu poses on May 9, 2018 during a photocall for the film “Rafiki” during the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT /AFP /Getty)

“However, the change that they were asking for was for the ending to be changed to make it less hopeful.

“I refused to make it a sad ending, and I refused to make the characters remorseful and I do not believe in depicting images of Africans as sad and despairing or desperate.

“That is not my style, and that is not my ethos.”

Earlier this month, PinkNews reported that the head of Kenya’s censorship bureau has claimed that charities are paying young people £22,000 per head to become homosexuals.

More: Africa, cannes, Kenya, Kenya, Rafiki

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