Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati
Acclaimed Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s (From a Whisper) teen lesbian romance Rafiki became something of a cinematic cause célèbre in 2018. Despite the honour of being the first Kenyan film selected to screen at Cannes, where it premiered in Un Certain Regard, it was nevertheless banned in Kenya for positively portraying and ‘promoting’ homosexuality, illegal in the country. After Kahiu sued the government, and following an outcry from the international film community, the Kenyan High Court eventually lifted the ban; though sadly only for seven days in September 2018.
Inspired by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko’s 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story Jambula Tree, Rafiki (‘friend’ in Swahili) is first and foremost a tender love story, depicting the romance between two young women amid familial, societal and political pressures.
Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) lives on a Nairobi housing estate with her mother. Helping her father, convenience store owner John, campaign for a local election, she befriends Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), the daughter of his political rival. As Kena and Ziki’s relationship deepens, so do the stakes, forcing them to choose between openness and secrecy, happiness and safety.
Confident and polished, a brave and groundbreaking work with a fresh and unfussy chemistry between its two leads, we are delighted the film will receive a UK release and to be showcasing it at Screening Days.