‘Rafiki’, a film banned in its homeland Kenya, will be screened at the 23rd International Film Festival of Kerala under the World Cinema category. The film directed by Wanuri Kahiu, takes on the subject of homosexuality and is the first Kenyan film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it was included under the Un Certain Regard section.
In a nation where same sex marriage is illegal and homosexuality is criminalised, making a film on the same theme is a bold move by Kahiu. She tried to pull it off in a conservative society in which LGBTQ people are not allowed to address their partners as lovers but as ‘rafiki’ – ‘friends’ in Swahili language.
The women-led film – from female director, writers, crew members, trainees, to sound-track artists – was banned by the Kenyan Film Classification Board, “due to its homosexual theme”, and was screened a mere seven times even after the lifting of the ban as Kahiu sued the government. It was shown to a sold-out crowd at a cinema at Nairobi, and the ban raised international outrage by the supporters of LGBTQ rights.
‘Rafiki’ tells the love story of two girls, Kena and Ziki. Kena, a tomboyish Kenyan girl, falls for Ziki, who is the daughter of Kena’s father’s political rival. Both of them try to be secretive about their relationship but eventually are forced to choose between their love and safety.