‘Rafiki’ Was Banned in Kenya and Is Now the Second-Highest Grossing Kenyan Film of All Time

‘Rafiki’ Was Banned in Kenya and Is Now the Second-Highest Grossing Kenyan Film of All Time

After being banned in Kenya for promoting lesbianism, the Wanuri Kahui-directed romance film Rafiki became the top-performing film at its home country’s box office. Rafiki beat out films like The Nun and Night School and in the process became the second highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time, according to a press release. The film grossed more than $33,000 during its court-authorized seven-day run. After its initial run, the film is once again banned.

Over 6,500 people saw the film in the seven day period it screened in Kenya — and hundreds more were turned away due to full screenings.

“Over a seven day release, Rafiki has experienced a rush at Prestige Cinema only felt before at the Black Panther release earlier this year,” Trushna Patel of Crimson Media siad. “Even though there was limited screen time allotted at the last minute after the court ruling, the film was performing to full house capacity at all shows running, a welcome scene for a Kenyan film.”

Kahiu thanked all those who came out to watch the film. “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.’’

Rafiki was the first Kenyan film selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then, it has screened in festivals in over 20 countries.

INTO spoke with the film’s director at the Toronto International Film Festival. At the time, it had not yet been viewed in her home country of Kenya.

“I really hope that when Kenyans see it, they see that people fall in love the way they fall in love. It’s no different,” she said. “What makes you drawn to a person you can’t explain and it can’t be stopped. I want them to see the process of falling in love and not question it or have it be alien or foreign or corrupt, just the humanity and beauty and simplicity of how easy it is to fall in love with someone else.”


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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