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“Fun, fierce and frivolous African art.” This is how director Wanuri Kahiu defines AFROBUBBLEGUM, her vision for the future of filmmaking on the African continent. Her latest feature, Rafiki, embodies this vision perfectly.
A love story between two young women (played by newcomers Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva) in a society that still bans homosexuality, Rafiki is saturated with joy, heartbreak, and a richly effervescent cinematography that showcases Kahiu’s native Nairobi in all its vibrancy. When Kena and Ziki first lock eyes, it’s genuinely love at first sight, despite the fact their families are political rivals. The young women grow close, but as they are not able to show their attraction in public — or even to their relatives and friends — they are forced to sneak small moments in private. Together they create their own world, where their love isn’t anything other than an expression of their commitment to each other. However, the space they create isn’t immune to the biases of the outside world. Banned in Kenya mere days before its Cannes premiere, Rafiki, inspired by Monica Arac de Nyeko’s story Jambula Tree, is an uplifting celebration of love. (Dir. by Wanuri Kahiu, 2018, Kenya/South Africa, in English/Swahili with English subtitles, 83 mins., Not Rated).

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