Rafiki is a film that will go down in history. Wanuri Kahiu, in creating a Kenyan film unafraid to portray lesbian sexuality, not only succeeded in winning over the international festival circuit, but also faced down a tough legal battle in her home country. Victorious, Kahiu was permitted to show the film for one week in Kenya (where homosexuality is illegal) so that Rafiki may qualify for Oscar submission — a week that was undoubtedly revolutionary for the Kenyan lesbian community.
Subversive in its very existence, Rafiki’s profound impact is twofold: as a love story, the film crafts a study of forbidden lesbian intimacy unlike any other. Never voyeuristic, Kahiu’s camera traces the bodies of her characters as they touch, following the movements of hands upon skin with breathtaking detail. The absence of what we would typically consider as nudity only strengthens the clandestine, almost wistful nature of Kena and Ziki’s relationship — we are outsiders to their unique bond, and their bodies are not ours to consume. Rather, it is their affection for each other that we witness, and what a beautiful affection it is. The pair is endlessly supportive of each other regardless of the circumstance. When Kena explains her wish to become a nurse, Ziki pushes her —why not a doctor? Kena doesn’t think she’ll get the grades, but Ziki believes in her fully. There is no selfishness between them, and in this sense, they function almost like a friendship, as reflected in the title: “Rafiki” means “Friend” in Swahili.Continue reading “BFI London Film Festival ’18 Review: ‘Rafiki’ is a Beautiful Study of Dual Identity”→
To celebrate Pride Month, here is a list of all the upcoming LGBTQ films you can expect to see on a cinema screen near you. All descriptions are from press materials.
June 8 – HEART BEATS LOUD dir. Brett Haley
The film follows Sam during her last summer at home before she leaves for UCLA. She lives with her father, Frank, who runs a record store in Brooklyn. Together, they bond while playing and writing music together in their living room. And Sam doesn’t let the impending cross-country move stop her from having a summer fling.
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Sasha Lane, Toni Collette
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.
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.