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Banned lesbian love story wins top film award

Samantha Mugatsia won the best actress award at the Fespaco film festival for her performance in Rafiki, which has been banned in Kenya

A FILM about two Kenyan women who fall in love has won an award at Africa’s largest film festival.

Samantha Mugatsia, was named best actress at the Fespaco film festival for her performance in Rafiki, which was banned the by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) last year.

Mugatsia, plays the role of a lesbian character named Kena in the film.

The decision to uphold the ban on the film, which was accused of “promoting lesbianism”, will be ruled on by Kenya’s high court in May.

In Kenya, homosexuality is illegal.

Rafiki, which means friend in Swahili, is based on the short story by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko. The film, which has been directed by Wanuri Kahiu, made history when it was shown at Cannes, making it the first Kenyan film to premiere at the prestigious film festival.

It was also eligible for submission to the Academy Awards after Kahiu filed a lawsuit against the KFCB, which resulted in the film being shown for a set period in Kenya.

In order to qualify for an Oscar nomination, a film must be screened in the country is was made for at least seven consecutive days.

Reacting to the Fespaco award on Twitter, Kahiu said: “Winning Best Actress for Rafiki at Fespaco is monumental. It is not only a recognition of Kenya’s artistry and adds Kenya to the history of African cinema, but a huge recognition of Freedom of Expression within Africa.

“We have the right to tell our stories, because they are precisely that — ours. We have the right to have all voices heard because they are ours. We have the right to create, because that’s how we share our humanity with the rest of the world.”

It charts the love story of two young women who are forced to choose between their happiness and safety.

The Fespaco film festival, which is celebrating its 50th year, is named after the French acronym of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou.

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