There’s nothing like a banning and a homophobic censorship row to gee up publicity for a film — not that Rafiki, a lesbian romance, needed much help on that score; as the first ever Kenyan film to compete at Cannes it has certainly enjoyed its share of the limelight.
But the controversy that followed the film’s banning in Kenya a fortnight ago has helped — and has once again placed the issue of gay rights in African countries firmly in the global spotlight.
“Interest in the film has been phenomenal,” Rafiki co-producer Steven Markovitz said. “It’s come from around the world.”
Markowitz, who heads up the South African company Big World Cinema, was speaking to Wanted from the prestigious film festival ahead of the movie’s world premiere on Wednesday evening.
He and his fellow producers, Afrobubblegum, a company set up by the film’s writer and director, Wanuri Kahiu, were exploring various legal avenues to reverse the ban by Kenya Film Classification Board chief Dr Ezekiel Mutua.
A self-declared “fervent moral crusader” who has described his job as “upholding our cultural and moral values through content regulation”, Mutua is notoriously homophobic and a widely scorned figure in Kenyan artistic circles.
In November last year, he made headlines after telling the Nairobi News that two male lions in the Maasai Mara that were photographed allegedly having sex must be studied by scientists to determine the origin of their homosexuality.