Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wanuri Kahiu|
|Produced by||Steven Markovitz|
|Edited by||Isabelle Dedieu|
Rafiki (lit. "Friend") is a 2018 Kenyan drama film directed by Wanuri Kahiu. Inspired by Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko's 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story "Jambula Tree", Rafiki is the story of friendship and tender love that grows between two young women, Kena and Ziki, amidst family and political pressures. The film had its international premiere in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
Kena helps her father John Mwaura run a small convenience store in Nairobi as he campaigns for a local election. Kena lives with her mother, who isn't really on speaking terms with John. Kena starts flirting with Ziki, a neighbourhood girl with colourful hair, who also happens to be the daughter of Peter Okemi, John's political rival. Kena and Ziki have a number of romantic dates, and quickly become very close, but there are tensions about displaying their affection in public because homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.
Ziki's friends get jealous that she is spending so much time with Kena, and when they attack Kena, Ziki defends her. Ziki takes Kena home to dress her wounds, but Ziki's mom catches them kissing. They run away together to hide, but are found by the town gossip, who brings an angry mob to attack the two girls. They are both arrested, and have to be picked up by their fathers. Ziki can no longer bear to see Kena, and her parents send her to live in London. John refuses to let Kena take the blame for what happened, even though it means forfeiting his chance at winning the election.
A few years later, Kena has fulfilled her dream to become a doctor, and gets word that Ziki has returned to town. The film ends just as they are reunited: after all these years their love has not died.
- Samantha Mugatsia as Kena
- Sheila Munyiva as Ziki
- Neville Misati as Blacksta
- Nini Wacera as Mercy
- Jimmy Gathu as John Mwaura
- Charlie Karumi as Waireri
- Muthoni Gathecha as Mama Atim
- Dennis Musyoka as Peter Okemi
- Patricia Amira as Rose Okemi
- Nice Githinji as Nduta
- Patricia Kihoro as Josephine
- Mellen Aura as Elizabeth
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". 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.
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. 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. After the ban was lifted, the film was shown to a sold-out crowd at a cinema in Nairobi. 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.
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- "High court lifts ban on lesbian themed movie 'Rafiki'". The Star (Kenya). 21 September 2018. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
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- Musyoka, Michael (28 September 2018). "Supa Modo is Kenya's Submission to Oscars, Rafiki Loses Out". Kenyans.co.ke. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
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- "Fespaco: Banned lesbian love story Rafiki wins award". BBC News. 3 March 2019.