The first Kenyan film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival has been banned in Kenya due to its lesbian storyline.
The film Rafiki, which means “friend” in Swahili, traces the love story between two young women.
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) said the film “seeks to legitimize lesbian romance”.
KFCB warned that anyone found in possession of the film would be in breach of the law in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by 14 years.
The film’s director Wanuri Kahiu wrote on Twitter that she believed “adults in Kenya had been denied the right to discern the content they want to watch”.
“I’m really disappointed because Kenyans already have access to watch films that have LGBT content, on Netflix, and in international films shown in Kenya and permitted by the classification board itself,” she told Reuters.
The film, which will be shown in Cannes next month, is adapted from the 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story, Jambula Tree, by Ugandan writer Monica Arac Nyeko.
It follows two close friends, Kena and Ziki, who eventually fall in love despite their families being on opposing sides of the political divide.
The ban has been criticised by the film’s supporters on social media, as well as Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).
The commission used the hashtag, #KFCBbansLesbianFilm, in a tweet announcing the ban. The hashtag sparked a number of supportive tweets from Kenyans who criticised homosexuality.
The KFCB banned several American children’s programmes last year, including The Legend of Korra and Hey Arnold, stating that they showed “disturbing content glorifying homosexual behavior”.
In 2014, it banned the Oscar-winning film Wolf of Wall Street for its “extreme scenes of nudity, sex, debauchery, hedonism and cursing” and in 2016 it forced Coca-Cola to scrap a kissing scene in a television advert because it “violated family values”.