Wanuri Kahiu’s lesbian love story Rafiki first Kenyan feature film to premiere at Cannes Film Festival
Multi-award-winning Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu is poised to make history at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Wanuri, the director behind award-winning short film Pumzi, joins six female filmmakers from a lineup of 13 films, who will be going head to head for the Un Certain Regard section.
Wanuri’s Rafiki (also known as ‘Friend’), marks the very first local feature film to debut at the festival. The film joins others featured at the festival by filmmakers such as Sembene Ousmane, Haile Gerima, Abderrahmane Sissako and more recently African female filmmaker Rungano Nyoni.
Rafiki also joins other local films that have recently been celebrated and awarded internationally such as Mully, Watu Wote, Nairobi Half Life, Super Modo and Kati Kati.
It is a love story between its female leads, Kena and Ziki. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society.
When love blossoms between them, they will be forced to choose between happiness and safety. It is a witty, playful and touching portrait of a community affected by a relationship that blossoms between the two leads.
This politically timely film celebrates love and asks whether it’s safer being invisible, or should you defy conservative rules when you discover your identity and destiny through love.
The film is a combination of struggle and the power to dream and love. Wanuri shares that Rafiki was inspired by the 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko’s Jambula Tree, which chronicled a story of two girls in love in Uganda.
Wanuri says that “making a film about two women in love set in Kenya, means challenging deep rooted cynicism about same sex relationships among actors, crew, friends, and family.”
She also noted that her film is “a story about all that is good and difficult about being in love, so that for those fortunate moments we are lifted above our prejudices.” Rafiki is her second feature film, following her 2009 drama From a Whisper. Her 2010 sci-fi Pumzi was screened at Sundance in 2010.
She shared the news on Instagram posting: “I’m so excited! We did it! My new film Rafiki is invited to premiere at Cannes Film Festival. First Kenyan feature film to be invited to the festival. Please join me in congratulating the Kenyan cast and crew. What an amazing feat!.”
Joining in the conversation was American actress, Kerry Washington, best known for her role in Freeform’s Scandal, who shared on her Twitter: #RAFIKI is the first Kenyan feature film to go to Cannes. Congratulations @wanuri! I am so thrilled for you! The Festival will run from May 8–19.