Rafiki: Kenya's First Film to Screen at Cannes
Directed & written by Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan native, Rafiki takes us on a journey of friendship between two young women that grows into a tender love, despite the ongoing pressure of their families and the government itself. Celebrating this film during Pride month, we want to highlight the stories that aren’t even able to be seen in their own country. Yup, you read that correctly. This is a Kenyan film that’s made history as the first Kenyan film to ever be screened at Cannes and it’s banned in all cinemas within the country.
Locals have raved about the production and the storyline, as many are able to relate to the plot. The two actresses who portray the characters in the film, Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva have helped create a visual the world seemed to have needed, and yet the Kenyan Film and Classification Board (KFCB) has put a ban on it due to its “homosexual theme and its clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya, contrary to the law & dominant values of the Kenyans”.
The KFCB even warned that anyone in possession of the film would be in breach of the law, where being gay is punishable with up to 14 years in jail. As you can understand, this repugnant ban created an international outrage within the LGBT community and even the Kenya's National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC). The commission even used the hashtag, #KFCBbansLesbianFilm, in a tweet announcing the ban.
I’m writing this to inform you that while we seem to be making SOME progress within the US (barely), other countries still have their horrific ideologies against the LGBT community. The Kenyan film industry itself may never grow if it continues to be closed minded and ban all of its passionate bodies of work. Some are wondering that if it’s a societal issue, why not just allow Kenyans to make their own decisions?
Rafiki is the Pride flag being proudly flown without fear, judgement or bias and it’s inspiring to know that while Wanuri knew her film would be seen in a negative light in her own country, she did the damn thing anyway. So, brava, girl! You did it! You created a stunning visual based off of Monica Arc de Nyeko’s “Jambula Tree”, which was a 2007 Caine Prize winning short story. You made it into a visual that the African government wasn’t ready to see or come to terms with.
Rafiki, meaning “friend” in Swahili is something everyone should see and support, proudly. Whether you’re a part of the LGBT community or just an avid supporter like myself, basking in the glory of Rafiki as we did with Moonlight is vital.
Kenya has been doing films of a glorious magnitude for years, and yet they’re never talked about or even seen due to the scrutiny of the government. The writers and directors in Kenya are brave, creative, talented and passionate about their craft and it’s refreshing to see, once we’re even able to see it.
Visit their Soundcloud to vibe to their soundtrack: Here