It’s silly to ‘restrict’ a movie when people can watch it on the Internet

Tuesday February 17 2015

Women pose for photos in front of a poster advertising the movie

Women pose for photos in front of a poster advertising the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" on its opening day in Los Angeles on February 12, 2015. The long-anticipated movie version of the bestselling erotic novel ominated at the North American box office this weekend, whipping the competition to secure top spot, industry estimates showed Sunday. PHOTO | AFP 

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Everybody in Kenya is going to watch Fifty Shades of Grey now, and that’s just terrible.

It is all the fault of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), obviously.

The people who run that outfit have never heard of the Internet. They probably spend their time wishing there was a place where they could query everything they had forgotten or had not yet learnt and get an instant answer.

That place is called Google, of course, but they don’t know that.

The KFCB put on its moral lens last week, got its knickers in a twist and banned the Fifty Shades of Grey. But “ban” is a strong word. so they used the more friendly “restricted”. “It should not be screened or distributed,” they proclaimed, with typical “voice of God” attitude. Don’t be surprised by that because a man of God chairs the board – Bishop Jackson Kosgei.


Yes, a bishop heads the body that classifies films in Kenya and decides what is approved for public viewing. He probably comes straight from Bible study to a board meeting, still levitating from the power of the Holy Spirit.

They didn’t ban the film for being capital-B Bad as many reviewers have agreed that the books were. They didn’t ban it for having an improbable storyline and honestly poor artistry. ‘“Besides being a film which is sexually loaded in tone, visual effects and sound, the film is one among many films which is slowly but steadfastly desensitising viewers into embracing pornography, which is illegal in Kenya,” explained the good bishop.

Only, it isn’t really pornographic. The film starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson doesn’t even have visible genitals.

Movie critics are disappointed in it, calling the lovemaking “run of the mill”, considering the cultural phenomenon that the books are.

Predictably, voyeurs all over the country are scandalised that they are being denied a chance to almost see steamy sex on the big screen.

“We disappointed so many customers because people were already planning to come and see the movie,” Planet Media’s cinema manager at the Prestige Plaza, Joseph Kilonzi, told me. “We expected some age restriction, not a ban.”

The excessive clothing in the movie and lack of enough sex scenes has thoroughly underwhelmed the French, though. Even 12-year-olds are allowed to watch it, the country’s equivalent of the KFCB, with the impossible-to-pronounce name Le Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée decided.

“The director handled the sex scenes very skilfully and limited them to the bare minimum,” director Jean-Francois Mary said in defending its second lowest rating. Oh là là!


Keep in mind that the subject matter of Fifty Shades of Grey is not your typical housewife reading. It is on the relationship between student Anastasia Steele, and emotionally-damaged billionaire Christian Grey, who enjoys controlling sexual encounters.

BDSM is what the kids call it – an overlap of bondage and discipline (BD), dominance and submission (DS), sadism and masochism. Surely, did you expect a bishop to unleash this evil on the world?

 “People will go out and start looking for pirated movies and still watch it,” Kilonzi pointed out.

When you try to censor something, the opposite tends to happen.

It is called the Streisand Effect, named after Barbara Streisand who tried to suppress photos of her Malibu residence and failed spectacularly. But remember, the folks at the KFCB have never heard of the Internet, so they don’t know this.

Fun fact: a risqué Kenyan film, Fundi-mentals, opened the same week Mr Grey’s appointment with us was cancelled. ‘There is a difference between talking about sex in a comedy and actually portraying it,” director Alex Konstantaras told me in trying to explain why his film was allowed.

Heck, his wife, Lizz Njagah, is a star in the film! But he is opposed to banning movies, preferring a higher rating of 18 or 21. A Kenyan horror film he did a few years ago was also banned. “What are they protecting a 30 or 40-year-old from?” he asked.

Don’t tell that to the prudes at the KFCB, which was formed in 1930, and whose thinking appears to be still transfixed in that very same year. Seriously though, who bans movies in the year of our Lord 2015?


Tony Blair to advise the President?

FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair was hanging out with President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, and they had several photo ops. His life post 10 Downing Street now largely revolves around running a charity called the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI).

Kenya and President Kenyatta are his latest targets, hence the visit. “AGI is in the early stages of providing support to a presidential delivery unit,” a spokesman told the UK’s Telegraph. “We’ll be working shoulder-to-shoulder with Kenyan public servants on the government’s priorities for improving the lives of ordinary Kenyans.”

You see, Blair is already spreading his brand of charity on the continent in places like Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

With the dropping of that pesky International Criminal Court against Kenya 1, he has suddenly become very attractive for Blair.

They have some kind of kindred spirit, you know, considering some also accuse Blair of being a war criminal after following George Bush into that messy Iraq misadventure. Like me, it would appear that President Kenyatta is a big admirer of the British accent, considering that they ran his public relations campaign and now Blair is here to whisper into his ear. So much for African solutions.

YouTube turns 10

DID YOU KNOW that the  popular video-sharing site, YouTube, starting out as a online dating platform.

But the Internet didn’t like that idea so they turned it into something more useful – a place for people to upload video for auction sites. Then it evolved into the ultimate repository for funny cats, home videos, fails and music prodigies.

It has been a great 10 years for the site, considering it was founded on Valentine’s Day 2005. Ex-Paypal employees Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen accidentally started a movement without actually intending to do so and changed entire industries.

NTV was one of the first Kenyan companies to get a page to share news videos on the site.  Today, it has 206,542 subscribers and nearly 38,000 videos on it.

The anomaly of South Korean pop star Psy’s Gangnam Style video holds the record 2.2 billion number of views.

May freedom reign. 


Feed back on article titled “in the real world we need people who are inventive, not A students” (February 9, 2015)


Dear Mr Madowo,

Years back when I sat for the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE), I scored 36 points but was not admitted to myfirst choice (Alliance) nor my second choice (Lenana). Even my third choice (Aga Khan) ignored me, so that I ended  up at Aquinas High School, where I simply wilted academically.

Today, I am seeking to have Kenya’s first educational space satellite in space as a way of enabling higher uptake among Kenyan students of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) subjects and career paths. This basically means that, since I first thought of fundraising by selling advertising space on a Kenyan satellite in 2011, I have been on the right path all along, although  the level of technological awareness andfunding opportunities for high-tech ventures is low in Kenya.

What I have learnt is that if there is no role for you in this play called life, create your own.Allan Okoth


Hi Larry,

I found your article titled “In the real world you need people who are inventive, not ‘A’ students” very interesting and true. I am a living testimony to the story you wrote; my talents and attitude are what have brought me to where I am today. I am the youngest manager at the financial institution where I am working.

I am looking to grow, especially in the tech space, and be an inspiration to others on how talent and being an aggressive thinker outweighs papers and qualifications.

Calestor Magero



Thank you for such a great article. Indeed, it has had a great impact on me. As a student, I believe being creative is what makes the difference! We are always told to go to school, work hard, get a degree and a good job. That’s the wrong way of viewing education.

Education must have an impact on our lives such that we gain knowledge and transform the world, unlike the majority who go to school as a formality and only read to pass exams instead of learning.