Bursting with the colorful street style & music of Nairobi’s vibrant youth culture, RAFIKI is a tender love story between two young women in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality. Kena and Ziki have long been told that “good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives” - but they yearn for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls encourage each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, Kena and Ziki must choose between happiness and safety.
Initially banned in Kenya for its positive portrayal of queer romance, RAFIKI won a landmark supreme court case chipping away at Kenyan anti-LGBT legislation. Featuring remarkable performances by newcomers Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva, RAFIKI is a hip tale of first love “reminiscent of the early work of Spike Lee” (Screen Daily) that’s “impossible not to celebrate” (Variety)!
"Mugatsia and Munyiva lead an excellent cast in a heartbreaking tale about what trying to hold on in an often senseless world. Recommended" - Video Librarian
- "[A]t home, where homosexuality remains a criminal offense, “Rafiki” has been slapped with a ban for its positive representation — a state of affairs that makes this lively, brightly performed film impossible not to celebrate...."
- "A love story for the time"
- "Rafiki presents a radiant, vivacious portrait of young love that owes as much to “Romeo and Juliet” as “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Moonlight.” Although Kahiu is sharply critical of the hypocrisies of Kenyan culture, she is just as attuned to the sweetness of romance at its most instinctive, tender and fragile. For its formal simplicity and directness, Rafiki is a small revelation, not least because it marks the breakthrough of a filmmaker of such exhilarating, cheerfully courageous vision."
- "[A] vibrant, pulsing piece of work, keying off the joy of young love and unexpected discovery. "
- "[W]ith Rafiki, the director has produced a wholly new vision of African filmmaking that is vibrant, compassionate, and joyous."
- "A burst of unfiltered teenage energy. Lively and full of vision! [Kahiu] has a wonderful eye for detail and lyricism."
- "Jubilant...floods the viewer's senses with a celebration of color, cheer, and song Bold and beautiful, with a keen sense of time and place, Kahiu has created something truly special with Rafiki..."
- "Rafiki’s slotting of two African women into this familiar romantic structure represents a radical and important upending of contemporary Kenyan sexual mores"
- "A dynamic, smoothly-executed tale of impossible love that brings fresh energy to a subject that may seem overly familiar to western eyes. ...[R]eminiscent of the early work of Spike Lee."
- "[B]y framing an effervescent lesbian romance against a backdrop of political allegiance and the societal taboos surrounding LGBTQ rights, Rafiki finds its voice – and deserves to shout it, loud and clear."
- "It’s undoubtedly a shame that the film’s home country wasn't initially willing to acknowledge the beauty of Rafiki’s depictions of lesbian love and countless other real-life same-sex relationships. Kahiu’s film reinforces that being who you are and loving in spite of the opinions of others is still a revolutionary act. So cheers to the Kenyan viewers, who now have the opportunity to see Rafiki for what it is — colorful, warm and real. Rating: 5/5"
- "...a dizzyingly beautiful love story of two young women coming of age in a place that’s hostile to what brings out the best in them."
- "While Western countries are still struggling to produce many queer stories that don’t end in misery and death, or that focus solely on the white male experience, the Kenyan-focused, neon-pink romance of Rafiki is exactly what the world needs."
- "Rafiki is a stunning lesbian love story - in a place where that's forbidden."
- "Audiences here in the states will enjoy this tender, memorable movie, and recognize Kahiu as a director of note on the rise. For her colorful, deeply effecting point of view, and her intentional inclusion of female casts and crew members, she is a filmmaker to watch."
- "Kahiu captures the essence of what it means to be a (lesbian) woman in modern Kenya and questions the long-standing conservatism that prevents the birth of a more tolerant society. Depicting a lesbian story, reflecting on homosexuality in a Kenyan context with ease and replacing the extraordinary with the ordinary showcases exactly the kind of bravery the world needs right now."
- "[A] modest, at times striking drama that is perhaps more notable for what it represents than what it is."
- "Rafiki is an absolute marvel of a film,[...]Americans also have a lot to learn from this one."
- "Kahiu’s fluid direction and wholly empathetic performances by Mugatsia and Munyivamake the movie special."
- "This director knows how to capture on film the wonderful feeling of falling in love"
- "What makes Kahiu’s film essential beyond that moral and artistic victory is its ability to instill hope within a hopeless situation. From the colorful opening credits to the stellar soundtrack to the beautiful cinematography putting Kenya’s vibrancy on display, she’s given the world a depiction of romance (same sex or not) that’s just as cute, relatable, and potent as those Americans see every month at their local theaters. "
Awards & Recognition
Cannes Film Festival
Toronto Int'l. Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Narrative Feature
Jury Award for Best Feature
OUTShine Film Festival
Sydney Film Festival
Chicago Int'l. Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival
Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival
Inside Out Ottawa LGBT Film Festival