Rafiki (#NewFest 2018)

Finally back from NYC and ready to report on my NewFest screenings. Friday night we saw Rafiki, a sumptuous Kenyan coming out story about two young women who fall in love. I often skip over new literature about kids coming out, not because I don’t think it’s important. I’m simply more interested in looking at gay life from an older perspective these days. Still there are artists who continue to use this genre to create magic. And magic is exactly what director Wanuri Kahiu used to create the shimmering first blush of lesbian love between Kena and Ziki. Inspired by Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko‘s 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story Jambula Tree, Rafiki follows Kena as she navigates the homophobic world of her country while falling for the most effervescent girl in town. There’s sweet, innocent, first love wonder as well as the adult world full of hatred threatening violence to the girls. Kids need protecting, nurturing, and the space to simply discover themselves. Rafiki reminds us of that urgency. Kahiu balances the hatred against the two women by many in town with a gorgeous soundtrack which follows the lovers on their journey. Simple, elegant and full of magic, Rafiki is an international lesbian film you will want to seek out when it gets released on disk or streaming. It’s the perfect depiction of the Love Wins movement. 5 out of 5. In English and Swahili.

And in case you don’t think film continues to be political and censorship real, check out the film’s Wikipedia page,

Rafiki was banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law”.[4] The KFCB warned that anyone found in possession of the film would be in breach of the law in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by 14 years in jail. The ban raised international outrage by the supporters of LGBT rights.[5][6]

The film’s director, Wanuri Kahiu, sued Kenya’s government, to allow the film to be screened and become eligible to be submitted as Kenya’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.[7] On 21 September 2018, the Kenyan High Court lifted the ban on the film, allowing it to be screened in the country for seven days, therefore meeting the eligibility requirements.[8][9] After the ban was lifted, the film was shown to a sold-out crowd at a cinema in Nairobi.[10] Despite the ban being lifted, it was not selected as Kenya’s submission in the Foreign Language Film category, with Supa Modo being sent instead.[11][12]

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