The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.


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16 May 2018

Rafiki: to our forbidden love! | à nos amours interdites ! Cannes 2018 (analysis/analyse, Falila Gbadamassi - Africiné)

Rafiki: to our forbidden love! Cannes Film Festival (8-19 May 2018). Falila Gbadamassi (Africiné Magazine: analysis of the film by Wanuri Kahiu)

Translated from French by Beti Ellerson and published on the African Women in Cinema Blog in collaboration with

En français :

A film about love, between two high school girls, which caused its director [Wanuri Kahiu] to be threatened with imprisonment in Kenya. Rafiki, a remarkable drama, is one of three African films in competition at the Un Certain Regard.

“We are here to celebrate love because we have come a long way to tell this story, it cannot be shown in Kenya (it has been banned since 27 April 2018, because the film is accused of ‘promoting’ lesbianism) but we can show it to you,” Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu said during the screening of her film on 9 May 2018 on the Croisette. Rafiki ("Friend" in Swahili), an adaptation from the book by Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko, opened the competition at Un Certain Regard.

In Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) are neighbours from the same area, though they belong to a different social background. But more importantly, their fathers are political rivals involved in an election campaign where the slightest blunder could be disastrous. With her girlfriends and her kitsch look, Ziki only thinks about having fun. Kena is more serious and wants to become a nurse. A tomboy, she often hangs with her friend Blacksta (Neville Misati) who plans to make her a respectable woman in the near future.

Meanwhile, Kena and Ziki "imagine themselves", one would say to paraphrase Vanessa Paradis (singer and actress, on the poster of Un Couteau dans le cœur, the film by Yann Gonzalez in the running for the 2018 Palme d'Or) when she interprets the song Tandem. The two high school girls come closer together and finally declare their burning desire for each other, in this Kenyan society where homosexuality is the latest crime in fashion.

The pragmatic Kena, while taking many risks to make the relationship happen, is careful not to reveal it. The frivolous Ziki, who does not want to be an ordinary Kenyan, chooses rebellion. Can one or the other of these strategies allow them to live their love openly when the pastor of their community emphasises, when he can, the abomination of a homosexual relationship?

The Kenyan state shares his view: homosexuality is illegal and is punishable by 14 years in prison. Reality has caught up with fiction. The shame is now cast on Wanuri Kahiu, who, congratulated a few hours after the announcement of her selection at Cannes, is now under threat of imprisonment because her film portrays homosexual love. At the moment, Kenyans are a long way from seeing the first Kenyan film selected at Cannes. Yet, they can be proud of this lively and colourful work, like the credits of the film. It echoes a Kenyan youth who enjoys its right to insouciance even in the most dramatic situations. Supported by two performers who convey their characters valiantly and with great sincerity, Rafiki is a beautifully made film. Wanuri Kahiu's sensitive and skilful storytelling takes the viewer by the hand, to see the blossoming of a love born in the expressions and smiles filmed with close-up shots. Through the lens of the filmmaker, the detail of the faces of the lovers becomes a true reflection of their soul.

Wanuri Kahiu produced a real gem that was born, in part, on the Croisette. Her selection is akin to a homecoming. Thanks to la Fabrique Cinéma of the French Institute, a program that supports young talents of the world, she completed the scriptwriting for Rafiki. "It's an honour and a privilege to be here (in Cannes)," said the Kenyan filmmaker at the presentation of her film. Proud to be at the Cannes Film Festival but also proud of her native Kenya. "Even if we are heartbroken by what is happening in our country," said Wanuri Kahiu, "we are proud to be Kenyans." And the future audience of Rafiki will be able to boast of having chosen a good film.

Falila Gbadamassi est rédactrice à Africiné Magazine
Rafiki: à nos amours interdites !  Festival de Cannes (8-19 mai 2018)

Un film d'amour… entre deux lycéennes qui vaut à sa réalisatrice d'être menacée d'emprisonnement au Kenya. Rafiki, drame solaire, est l'un des trois films africains en compétition à Un Certain Regard.

"Nous sommes ici pour célébrer l'amour parce que nous sommes venues de loin pour raconter cette histoire. Il ne peut pas être projeté au Kenya (il est interdit depuis le 27 avril 2018, parce que le film est accusé de "promouvoir" le lesbianisme) mais nous pouvons vous le montrer", a déclaré la cinéaste kényane Wanuri Kahiu lors de la projection de son film le 9 mai 2018 sur la Croisette. Rafiki ("Ami" en swahili), adaptation du livre de l'Ougandaise Monica Arac de Nyeko, a lancé la compétition à Un Certain Regard. Lire l'intégralité de l'article @

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