The filmmaker said that while embarking on the film she knew that the ban was a possibility.
Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu, whose lesbian romance, Rafiki, has been the toast of the Cannes Film Festival, said on Friday that the Kenya Film Classification Board has been issuing her threats of arrest. “It seems like they are trying to build a case to imprison me… Most recently I saw them tweeting that I have broken the law,” she said in an interview. The two young lead actresses, Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva, however, are safe and not in the eye of this storm, she said.
The board has been alleging that Kahiu submitted a false script to them, a charge that she claims is untrue: “We submitted the final shooting script [to the Kenya Film Classification Board].” The film has already been banned in the country for “normalising homosexuality in Kenya”.
Kahiu spoke about the history of Kenyan artistes going into exile. “But at that time it was under a dictator, [Daniel arap] Moi. That’s when Ngugi wa Thiong’o went into exile, his books were banned. We have progressed past that,” she said.
Kahiu called the threat a violation of the constitution that ensures freedom of expression. “We know that our constitution is quite young. It’s only eight years old. What’s happening now is that we are just beginning to understand the limitations and the edges of the constitution… It is time now to start having conversations about implementation of the constitution and our rights,” she said.
The filmmaker said that while embarking on the film she knew that the ban was a possibility. “What we didn’t expect was the threat of arrest to me,” she said. In spite of the threat she said she would continue to exercise her right to create. “I am an artiste and it’s my constitutional right to make this film. So I would do it again, and I would do it again, and I would do it again. I won’t stop doing my work because other people are trying to violate my right. I think it’s for them to deal with their violations,” she said.
On asked where she would go from Cannes now with the arrest looming large, she said she would heading home: “If they want they can arrest me and we can go to court to prove I haven’t broken the law. But I am going home. It’s where I live. I am not going to hide, I am not going into exile. My family is there, my children are there, my husband is not about to leave. It’s a place that inspires me, that I make films for, the place that I make films about.”