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Richard Mowe

Banned on its home ground because according to the authorities “it promotes homosexuality,” the first Kenyan film to be chosen for the Cannes official selection is a touching and brave portrayal of the relationship between two young women from the same Nairobi housing estate.

Based on a prize-wining story by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko, the film depicts the blossoming and intoxicating affair between Kena and Ziki which blinds them to the dangers lurking all around them as well as the reactions of their respective families.

Samantha Mugatsia plays the androgynous Kena, who awaits the results of her school exams to enable her to continue her training as a nurse. Her father John is a neighbourhood shopkeeper who is running for political office as “a man of the people.” He's separated from her mother, a teacher, and we discover that his new partner is expecting a child.

The eye-catching Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), with her colourful hair, whose father is a political rival of Kena’s dad, comes into her field of vision and the two embark on a friendship and more.

They develop their affection for each other almost under cover, stealing kisses and caresses in clubs and in an abandoned van which has become their “romantic” hide-out.

When their romance is discovered they are horrendously attacked by a group of youths, which forces their families to reasses ...

Banned on its home ground because according to the authorities “it promotes homosexuality,” the first Kenyan film to be chosen for the Cannes official selection is a touching and brave portrayal of the relationship between two young women from the same Nairobi housing estate.

Based on a prize-wining story by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko, the film depicts the blossoming and intoxicating affair between Kena and Ziki which blinds them to the dangers lurking all around them as well as the reactions of their respective families.

Samantha Mugatsia plays the androgynous Kena, who awaits the results of her school exams to enable her to continue her training as a nurse. Her father John is a neighbourhood shopkeeper who is running for political office as “a man of the people.” He’s separated from her mother, a teacher, and we discover that his new partner is expecting a child.

The eye-catching Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), with her colourful hair, whose father is a political rival of Kena’s dad, comes into her field of vision and the two embark on a friendship and more.

They develop their affection for each other almost under cover, stealing kisses and caresses in clubs and in an abandoned van which has become their “romantic” hide-out.

When their romance is discovered they are horrendously attacked by a group of youths, which forces their families to reassess their attitudes towards their sexuality.

Rafiki (which means friend) benefits from the chemistry between the two leads as well as an unpretentious and courageous approach to a subject that incredibly remains volatile and hostile in Kenya.

Wanuri Kahiu’s courageous directorial approach deserves praise and support – and a wider exposure outside of the confines of the Cannes Film Festival, not least in Kenya itself.

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