Film Movement Nabs North American Rights For Wanuri Kahiu’s ‘Rafiki’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Theatrical release planned for Un Certain Regard LGBT drama banned in Kenya

Film Movement has acquired North American rights for “Rafiki,” Wanuri Kahiu’s moving LGBT drama that world premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard this month.

The film is a coming-of-age story about two teenage girls whose blossoming romance is opposed by their families and community. The movie was banned in Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal, with the country’s film board claiming it attempted to “promote lesbianism.”

“We’ve long championed first-time directors, releasing the first films by such notable filmmakers as Maren Ade (‘The Forest for the Trees’) and Alice Rohrwacher (‘Corpo Celeste’), among others. And we continue to champion important new voices in cinema, such as Naji Abu-Nowar (‘Theeb’), Atsuko Hirayanagi (‘Oh Lucy!’), Maysaloun Hamoud (‘In Between’), and Rungano Nyoni (‘I Am Not a Witch’),” said Film Movement president Michael Rosenberg.

“We believe that Wanuri Kahiu is another important voice, and look forward to bringing ‘Rafiki’ to North American audiences.”

Film Management is planning to give the movie a theatrical release later this year in New York, L.A., and five other cities. “Rafiki” is being repped internationally by Orange Studio and MPM Premium.

After its world premiere in Cannes, “Rafiki” received a six-minute standing ovation. An emotional Kahiu – who faces prosecution back home – said she was overwhelmed by the response, calling the film’s reception “completely unexpected.”

“I didn’t think people would turn up!” she told Variety. “It was so very, very wonderful.”

Jury president Cate Blanchett called “Rafiki” “a very important film to see,” describing the performances and filmmaking as “extraordinary.”

“I found it incredibly powerful and moving,” she said. “It stayed with me so strongly.”

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