NAIROBI, 15TH MAY 2018: Kenya Films Classification Board (KFCB) Boss Ezakiel Mutua is currently not on Larry Madowo's favorite people list, and he made the whole world know about it in an 814 - words opinion piece published on The Washington Post on Tuesday.
In the article titled "Kenya’s homophobia is not the only dangerous thing about the ban on ‘Rafiki'," the BBC Business Editor for Africa tore into KFCB, showing just how much disservice they are doing to Kenya's film industry.
"If the Oscar-winning performance by Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years A Slave” was in a Kenyan movie, her film probably would have been banned for being too obscene. That is how dumb Kenya’s content regulations have become, with an overzealous censorship board and a public that seems to believe any material it disagrees with should be banned," says Larry.
The vocal journalist disagrees with the decision made by censorship body arguing that there was no way such works of art would promote homosexuality.
"The idea that homosexuality is a product that can be promoted by a film is not only laughable, but it reveals the backward mind-set of those who make the rules in Kenya," he says.
Larry argues that instead of vilifying the producers of the film, Kenyans should have actually seen it's potential and embraced it as a creative piece of art.
“Rafiki,” a lesbian love story directed by Wanuri Kahiu, was the first Kenyan film to be selected to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. This is no small feat for a low-budget, independent movie. But instead of being celebrated here in Kenya, the film has been banned because of “its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”
Larry has a problem with the amount of energy Kenya's leadership is putting on fighting homosexuality while the rest of the world is looking at how to live with this reality that is now part of our societal fabric.
"Just days after Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain apologized for her country’s legacy of colonial-era anti-gay laws in former British Commonwealth countries such as Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta offered a passionate defense of those same outdated statutes on international TV. The tone-deaf Kenya Film Classification Board and its hopelessly conceited leader Ezekiel Mutua (who once compared himself to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) clearly have support from the top ranks in government. They can’t see the great irony of clinging to discriminatory practices long abandoned by our former colonial masters," he adds.
Larry continues to argue that such actions by KFCB go along way in denying Kenyans revenue from film producers who would be interested in filming in Kenya but are now opting for other locations due to restrictive laws.
"These reactions to a changing society are hurting Kenya’s fledgling creative industry. Big-budget productions with Kenyan storylines are now regularly shot out of the country because of restrictive taxes that make the country unattractive to international filmmakers. Imported camera and sound-recording equipment are prohibitively expensive because of the extra duty charges added by the government."
"If a filmmaker jumps though the hoops to produce a movie in Kenya, his or her script still has to be approved by the Film Classification Board — which may deny a permit if it deems any part of the script to be offensive. While Nigeria’s delightfully wacky film industry, Nollywood, thrives partly because of its government’s hands-off approach to creative work, Kenya’s creative industry struggles under a government that wants to legislate morality."
Homosexuality is still a touchy subject in Kenya with many citizens supporting the government's position on the issue.
"Homophobia as official government policy has no major opposition in Kenya because many of its religious citizens believe it is un-African to love someone of the same gender. Yet these same people have no problem with allegiance to either a foreign Jesus Christ or Mohammed."
Ezakiel Mutua however feels that Larry Madowo lacks any moral authority to discuss the issue of homosexuality. He took to Twitter on Tuesday night to respond to Larry's article.
"@LarryMadowo is a successful journalist but he is no paragon of virtue. He has no moral authority to lecture anyone about life, family or Godliness. Get a wife Chief and settle down!"
"There is more to life than money and the glory of a byline. Values that are rooted in godliness, family and cultural heritage are the basis of great nations and great people. The rest is hype and hoopla," he continued.