Rafiki: LFF Film Review

I am guilty of only attending screenings for big name, hyped, star-studded movies at LFF, so I decided to change that and see Rafiki, a moving LGBT story set in Kenya.

Samantha Mugatsia stars as the tomboy Kena, who is drawn to the pink-haired Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) almost instantly. At first they are just friends, but then it becomes something else. They have to keep their romance a secret though as they are the daughters of two rival politicians currently on the campaign trail, and, above all, it is still illegal to be caught in a homosexual act in Kenya.

This movie feels important and timely, given that the conversation about decriminalising homosexuality hit the headlines there this year. It is very brave of director/co-writer Wanuri Kahiu to set a LGBT story in a country where it is still a criminal offence.

I have never seen a queer story set in Africa but it hits the same beats as any other LGBT story following two closeted people. The moment when they are inevitably found out (that’s not a spoiler, that happens in every movie like this) was powerful and shocking. I couldn’t believe that’s how lesbians are treated in 2018. That’s the film’s dramatic climax, but there’s more afterwards that’s a bit underwhelming in comparison. The ending wasn’t as poignant and moving as I’d hoped for.

Rafiki (meaning friend) is still worth a watch though. It is vital, vibrant, and colourful – I loved Ziki’s hair and style and the bass-filled soundtrack put me in a dancing mood. The lead actresses were also perfectly cast, with heaps of chemistry between them.

Also for those worrying about subtitles, I’d like to add that the dialogue is mostly spoken in English.

Seen as part of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. No cinema release information yet. 


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