Controversial ‘Rafiki’ 2nd Highest Grossing Kenyan Film of All Time
The 83-min, Wanuri-directed Kenyan film ‘Rafiki‘ ended its week-long run in the country, as the second highest grossing Kenyan film of all time, and the top performing film in Kenya for the week ending September 29th. This helped the feature topple global Hollywood Box Office heavyweights Warner Bros Studios‘ ‘The Nun‘ and Universal Pictures‘ ‘Night School‘ which features Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. ‘Rafiki’ is only second on the Kenyan all-time charts to the 2012 film ‘Nairobi Half Life‘.
The controversial film, which has drawn the ire of the Kenya Film Classification Board for its bold thematic about love between two women, showcased in Kenya for a court-authorized, theatrical run of seven days in three Kenyan cities. The film is once again banned in Kenya, and earlier this week lost out to ‘Supa Modo’ which is Kenya’s 2019 Oscars selection nominee for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’.
The film is based on the Caine Prize Winning short story “Jambula Tree” by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko, telling the story of Kena and Ziki who long for something more than just becoming good girls who become wives. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two girls are then forced to choose between happiness and safety.
According to the producers, over 6,500 people watched the film on the big screen over the seven day period, which also saw hundreds of others turned away from venues due to full houses. Rafiki brought in roughly $33,000 (approx KES 3,300,000) in sales, according to Crimson Multimedia‘s Trushna Patel, the film”s in-country distributor. The last time cinemas were this full was in the February-March window during the Marvel Studios theatrical run of ‘Black Panther‘.
“Over a 7-day release, RAFIKI has experienced a rush at Prestige Cinema only [previously] felt at the BLACK PANTHER release earlier this year. Even though there was limited screen time allotted at the last minute after the court ruling, the film was performing to capacity at all shows, a welcome scene for a Kenyan film.”
Wanuri Kahiu, the filmmaker of Rafiki said on Twitter, ‘’ Thank you so much to all of you who came out and watched 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 made history earlier this year as the first Kenyan film ever to be selected for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and has gone onto screen at festivals around the world. In the month of October alone, it is screening in festivals in more than 20 countries including France, Belgium, the USA, Japan, Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia and South Africa. Producers reveal that they have been invited to screen in at least six other African countries.
“The success of the theatrical release proves that there is a strong commercial market [for the film] in Kenya. We intend to take this film to other African countries in order to continue to build the case that quality African films are commercially viable on our own continent. The film will [possibly] be re-released in Kenya, [if] permanently un-banned’’ said Rafiki producer Steven Markovitz.
Meanwhile Wanuri Kahiu and the Creative Economy Working Group continue their pursuit of court action to have the film unbanned in Kenya. Lawyer for Wanuri Kahiu, Sofia Leteipan said “The ongoing case provides an opportunity for the courts to give meaning, progressively interpret and to breathe life into the Constitutional guarantee of the right to freedom of expression, that includes artistic creativity.’’