Samantha Mugatsia, the lead actress of the lesbian love story Rafiki, has won the best actress award at the Fespaco Film Festival in Burkina Faso for her role in the film.
Rafiki was inspired by the Caine Prize 2017 winning story Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko. It tells the story of two Kenyan girls Kena and Ziki who fall in love and struggle to navigate this love with their families. People eventually find out about their love and they are forced to choose between love and safety.
The film features Samantha Mugatsia as Kena and Sheila Munyiva as Ziki. Other actors include: Jimmi Gathu, Nini Wacera, Patricia Amira and Dennis Musyoka. Wanuri Kahiu, directed and co-wrote the film.
The film that debuted at Cannes Film Festival in May 2018, becoming the second Kenyan film and the first feature film to show at the international film festival. It has won several awards including the Bratislava International Film Festival Viewer’s Choice Award, Fiction Feature Film in the 2018 Carthage Film Festival, the Silver Q-Hugo Chicago International Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award at the NewFest: New York’s LGBT Film Festival.
KFCB in April 2018 chose to ban the film in Kenya because the film’s producer Wanuri Kahiu declined to remove what the board defined as offensive classifiable elements. KFCB later claimed that Romantic scenes depicting the lead actors as lesbians in the film were absent in the script submitted for licensing and that the objective of film was to normalize homosexuality in Kenya with the story celebrating the resilience of the youngsters involved in lesbianism.
Wanuri has sued the KFCB, contending that the grounds for banning the film are unconstitutional because they limit freedom of expression. The case is still ongoing.