Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu and the Creative Economy Working Group (CEWG) have sued the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and its CEO Ezekiel Mutua on their decision to ban the film Rafiki.

KFCB had in April 2018 banned the film in Kenya apparently on the grounds that the film’s producer had declined to remove what the board defined as offensive classifiable elements. KFCB on Twitter claimed that Romantic scenes depicting the lead actors as lesbians in the film were absent in the script submitted for licensing. They also added that the objective of film was to normalize homosexuality in Kenya with the story celebrating the resilience of the youngsters involved in lesbianism.

Rafiki is a Kenyan produced film by Wanuri Kahiu and  is a love story between 2 Kenyan girls despite the pressures of their family and the conservative society they live in. The basis of the story is the reason the film was banned. The film was screened at the Cannes Film festival 2018, becoming the second film and the first Kenyan feature film to show at the prestigious film festival.

The 2 petitioners noted that the grounds for banning the film are unconstitutional because they limit freedom of expression . They further want sections 4,6,7,8,9,12,13,16,30,35 of Films and Stage Plays Act CAP 222 and sections 5(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) of the KFCB Guidelines 2012 declared unconstitutional on the grounds that they limit freedom of expression. According to them, these sections criminalize free expression through film, limit freedom of film makers to seek, receive or impart information or ideas, restrict freedom of artistic creativity and limit freedom of expression.

Under a Certificate of Urgency, the petitioners want the Court to grant a Conservatory Order allowing the lifting of the ban to enable the Oscars Selection Committee Kenya to consider the film for entry to the Academy for the Best Foreign Language Film category award at the 2019 Oscars. Without lifting the ban the film cannot be considered for selection. The entries close on 30th September, 2018.

The petitioners are also asking for special damages of Ksh. 8,500,000 in respect of losses the film Rafiki incurred as a result of the ban.

According to Wanuri “Sections of the Films and Stage Plays Act, CAP 222 are a threat to free speech and media freedom. They limit the freedom of artists to impart information and restrict freedom of artistic creativity, contrary to the constitutional limits of freedom of expression. This isn’t about me personally. It’s about the freedom for all industry players to tell the stories they want to tell and not to be censored. The world is quickly becoming a village and the film industry is worth more than USD 30 billion globally. The opportunities for more Kenyans especially the youth to participate in this sector is immense. We should not let colonial laws stop us from achieving this.”

Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film producer and Director. The Creative Economy Working Group (CEWG) is a consortium of civil society organizations and institutions whose objective is to campaign for the advancement of legislative and policy reform in the creative sector for the advancement of culture, arts and media in Kenya. BAKE is a part of CEWG.

Kindly find the Wanuri + CEWG petition HERE.