Rafiki was the top performing film in Kenya for the week it was unbanned ending Saturday 29 September, beating Hollywood films like The Nun and Night School. Rafiki became the second highest grossing Kenyan film of all time even though it only had a seven day, court-authorized, theatrical run in three Kenyan cities. The film is once again banned in Kenya. The filmmakers are in the process of further court action to have the film permanently unbanned.
Over 6,500 people watched the film in Kenya on the big screen over the seven day period which also saw hundreds of cinemagoers being turned away from venues due to full houses. The film grossed more than $33,000 in the week. Rafiki’s Kenyan distributor, Trushna Patel from Crimson Media said.
“Over a 7 day release, RAFIKI has experienced a rush at Prestige Cinema only felt before at the BLACK PANTHER release earlier this year. Even though there was limited screen time alloted 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.”
Wanuri Kahiu the celebrated filmmaker of Rafiki said ‘’ 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 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. It is currently in cinemas across France and Belgium to be followed by theatrical releases in USA, Japan, Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia, South Africa and has 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 Rafiki in Kenya. We intend to take this film to other African countries to continue to build the case that quality African films are commercially viable on our own continent. The film will be re-released in Kenya, when permanently unbanned’’ said Rafiki producer Steven Markovitz.
Meanwhile Wanuri Kahiu and the Creative Economy Working Group continue their 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.’’
Based on the Caine Prize Winning short story “Jambula Tree” by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko, ‘’Good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives’’ but Kena and Ziki long for something more. 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 will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.
Rafiki is a Big World Cinema and Afrobubblegum Production; In Co-Production with MPM Film, Schortcut Films, Ape&Bjørn, Rinkel Film and Razor Film; in association with Tango Entertainment; With the financial contribution of The European Union and the Assistance of the ACP Group of States and the support of the CNC and Institut Français Sørfond, The Netherlands Film Fund and Hubert Bals Fund the Berlinale World Cinema Fund and Arri – International Support Program.