Why Kenyan film Rafiki is an absolute must-see, especially during Pride Month

Rafiki was the first feature film to premiere at The Cannes Festival in 2018.
Rafiki was the first feature film to premiere at The Cannes Festival in 2018.
Rafiki Movie/Instagram

Rafiki

Now on Showmax

Our rating: 4,5/5 stars

Cast: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nini Wacera, Jimmy Gathu, Charlie Karumi

Director: Wanuri Kahiu

Running time: 82 minutes

Genre: Romance/Drama

Age restriction: 13V

 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Inspired by writer Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story Jambula Tree – about two girls in love in Uganda – Rafiki challenges deep-rooted prejudices against same-sex relationships in Kenya. Initially banned in Kenya for its positive portrayal of queer romance, it won a landmark court case and was allowed a limited run.

In an interview last year, director Wanuri Kahiu said she wanted to share a message of love and hope through the film. “My hope is that the film is viewed as an ode to love, [for] which the course is never smooth, and as a message of love and support to the ones among us who are asked to choose between love and safety. May this film shout where voices have been silenced.”

 

WHAT WE THOUGHT

Rafiki is centred around the love that grows between Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), two young Kenyan women. Their story is told in a simple and extremely relatable way.

It features several heart-warming and intimate scenes showing the attraction that grows between them, which they eventually act on. As a young Kenyan woman myself, it was extremely refreshing to see a story I can relate to that features my mother tongue, Swahili, in a way that doesn’t make it seem cheap or is grammatically wrong.

Rafiki also sheds light on a number of issues often ignored by the media, namely the representation of – or rather the lack thereof – and the mistreatment of the LGBTQIA+ community in African countries. Homophobia is a recurring theme in Rafiki, both the violent and insidious kind. Kena and Ziki are brutally beaten up by the men of the town when they find out about their relationship, they’re also emotionally and mentally hurt by the cruel rejection they face from their parents. These scenes were difficult to watch because I know they were but a tame version of what members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Kenya, and in other countries, too often have to go through.

Rafiki is a beautiful celebration of love, no matter what it looks like, and is the perfect film to watch during Pride Month. This queer love story, which is deeply moving and is currently still banned in Kenya, is definitely a must-see.

 

Watch the trailer here: