Lesbian Romance "Rafiki" Just Broke Major Records at Kenyan Box Office

Hundreds of moviegoers had to be turned away because of full theaters.

Rafiki has made history as the second highest-grossing Kenyan film ever.

After a nationwide ban on the film was temporarily halted, the Kenyan lesbian romance became the top-performing film in its home country during its seven-day run. Directed by Wanuri Kahui, Rafiki also beat out other films to become the second highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time, raking in more than $33,000 in just a week, Capital FM reports.

Rafiki premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Kenyan film ever to screen at the event. It's since been screened in more than 20 countries to great acclaim.


Spectators wait to watch the movie "Rafiki" (means friend in Swahili), first Kenyan film selected for showing at France's Cannes Film Festival, at the Prestige plaza in Nairobi, on September 23, 2018. - "Rafiki" movie that had been banned for months due to a lesbian love theme. Earlier this year, Rafiki became the first Kenyan film ever selected for showing at France's prestigious Cannes Film Festival. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Though it was welcomed with high praise abroad, this wasn't the case for the film's home country. Rafiki was originally banned across Kenya for "promoting lesbianism." However, government officials elected to briefly suspend the ban September 23–29 so the film could be considered for an Oscar in line with the Academy Awards' current foreign film regulations.

During that weeklong window, more than 6,500 Kenyans saw the film. Hundreds more were turned away because of sold-out movie theaters.

Trushna Patel of Crimson Media, the company that distributed Rafiki, said the film experienced a rush at Prestige Cinema like the one 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 full house capacity at all shows running, a welcome scene for a Kenyan film," Patel said in a press release.

New Yorkers who want to see Rafiki are in luck: The film is screening at the 30th annual NewFest LGBT Film Festival, which runs October 24–30.

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