Directed by Wanuri Kahiu
Rafiki, directed by Wanuri Kahiu, has an interesting backstory in that it is the first Kenyan film to make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, and there was talk of it being submitted as Kenya’s entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2018 Academy Awards. But in order to get there, and to have audiences view Rafiki, Kahiu had to bring a lawsuit against the Kenya Film Classification Board and the Kenyan Attorney General.
The promotion of same sex relationships in Kenya is illegal under the Kenyan Penal Code so the depiction of a blossoming romantic relationship between two young women, Kena and Ziki, whose fathers are political rivals, was originally banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board due to the films lesbian themes.
In order to have the film, with its sublime hyper-real colours and beautiful cinematography submitted to the Academy Awards, it needed to be released domestically. A High Court challenge resulted in a temporary lift on the ban of the film and audiences sold out the screenings. Watching Rafiki, it is easy to see why. Kahiu has captured the tenderness and excitement of friendship and love between Kena and Ziki, who don’t want to be “typical Kenyan girls”, whilst also highlighting the danger around the expression of their relationship within their tight-knit community in Nairobi.
The film moves along to a great soundtrack that ebbs and flows along with their story. Whilst Kenya didn’t end up submitting Rafiki to the Academy Awards the hype around the film is well deserved and will have you thinking about it long after you’ve left the cinema.
Rafiki will screen for the Closing Night Gala at 7pm, on Thursday the 28th of February. Tickets can be purchased here. Watch the trailer below.
Originally published here.