Rafiki was the much-maligned film directed by Kenyan film veteran Wanuri Kahiu and was not received wholeheartedly by conservative quarters for its lesbian themes.

Wanuri at the Toronto Film Festival

The film that made headlines after the Kenya Film Classification Board decided to ban it for the “offensive” content they felt the film carried.

This resulted in widespread condemnation for the board but they still would n’t buckle until the High Court intervened after a petition from the film-makers.

The reason they did so was to allow the film to be screened in the country for a week so as to qualify for Oscar consideration.

Oscar Awards
Oscar Awards

And it did so last week doing brisk business to the shock and awe of many. According to Rafiki’s Kenyan distributor, Trushna Patel from Crimson Media, the film’s screenings were all sold out despite the limited 7 days it was allowed to show.

Rafiki movie
Rafiki movie poster

It grossed Ksh. 3.3 million ($33, 000) in the 7 days it was shown in Kenyan cinemas. The film was screened in theatres in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu where 6,500 people watched it.

Wanuri was quick to appreciate the success the film had had and was quoted as saying:

Thank you for celebrating Kenyan film with us! We are so grateful. As we return to court to argue for freedom of expression, we carry you with us.

Wanuri Kahiu
Wanuri Kahiu speaking

The film’s producer Steven Markovitz also said:

The success of the theatrical release proves that there is a strong commercial market for Rafiki in Kenya. We intend to take this film to other African countries to continue to build the case that quality African films are commercially viable on our own continent. The film will be re-released in Kenya, when permanently unbanned.

How is that for a middle finger to the Film Classification Board?

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