This interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.
The Cannes film festival made history this year with the inclusion of Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to premiere along The Croisette. Playing as part of Un Certain Regard, it is also a ground-breaking piece of Kenyan filmmaking for its loving depiction of a same-sex relationship. I sat down with the director Wanuri Kahiu to discuss the ban on the film, the importance of religion in Kenyan culture, and why homophobia is un-African.
Redmond Bacon: Can you explain the situation regarding the decision to ban the film in your country?
Wanuri Kahiu: The film was banned. This means it can’t be broadcasted, exhibited, distributed or be in anybody’s possession within the Republic of Kenya. That includes the poster and the trailer, although the trailer cannot be suppressed because it’s on the internet. But if we were to get a poster here and take it back home [then] we would be breaking the law. And it is possible to appeal, but you have to appeal to the same board that banned the film. So right now, what we’re doing is just concentrating on being here and being present in Cannes to represent the film. Once we get home we’ll figure out what the way forward is.
After an eight-year hiatus from directing, Lee Chang-dong has returned with Burning, a simmering mystery and social commentary on the growing income inequality in South Korea—among other, insurmountably large issues.
The film loosely borrows from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” but its richly literate script is like a book all its own, bouncing from soliloquies on mortality and dissatisfaction to scenes of tribal dancing, emotional sex, intense violence and silent contemplation. While the film occasionally stretches to connect these disparate elements—and struggles to keep the characters’ dense musings from sounding like words on a page—Burning is ultimately much greater than the sum of its parts, and all tedium is forgotten by its haunting conclusion.
If there’s any film that defines the paranoid, conspiracy theory-obsessed times we live in — where groups of thousands of faceless identities believe Kubrick faked the Moon landing, the Illuminati controls the world, and Beyonce is a lizard — it may just be David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake. The follow-up to the wildly successful It Follows is a delirious head-spin into the seedy underground of Los Angeles; a baffling acid-trip of imagery attacking you from all angles. It emulates the LA-set noirs that are more successful in their execution like Mulholland Drive, but the film still has something new to add the table — some would say too much, but you can’t fault it for its ambition.
It’s almost that time of the year again. Red carpets are being prepared, critics are gathering their caffeine tablets, and social media is beginning to buzz about the latest and greatest films from across the world. Cannes Film Festival has always marked the film calendar with ingenuity and controversy alike, and this year is no different. Dramas this year include a return of Nazi-sympathiser Lars von Trier to the lineup after a supposed seven year ban, a long and exhausting battle with Netflix (in which nobody really won), and a lack of female directors in competition (a dismal 14%). On the other hand, the 3 Days at Cannes programme will allow 1000 young cinephiles access to one of the most exclusive film events of the year, the competition jury is majority women, and Cannes’ very first Kenyan feature – discussed below – will compete in the Un Certain Regard section. One step forward, two steps back.
Regardless of all this, we’re excited because Cannes always means one thing: fantastic films. In preparation for the festival, we’ve put together a short list of those premieres that we’re most keen to see.