Rafiki (2019)


Direction: Winuri Kahiu
Country: Kenya

Arriving fresh and confident from Kenya, where homosexuality is considered a criminal offense, Rafiki marks an important step in LGBT rights in that African country by depicting a tender love between two female teenagers in a hostile, conservative environment.

In Nairobi, the reserved Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and the extroverted pink-haired Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) forge a genuine, if totally unexpected friendship since their respective fathers, John Mwaura (Jimmy Gathu) and Peter Okemi (Dennis Musyoka), are running against each other in a local election. The friendship quickly evolves into an intimate love affair that must be hidden from everyone. Besides illegal and punishable with 14 years in prison, same-sex relationships are also not approved among their closest friends and the general population.

However, nothing escapes the eyes and ears of the venomous gossip Mama Atim (Muthoni Gathecha) and her daughter Nduta (Nice Githinji). With their secret unveiled, the young women soon become victims of the neighborhood’s prejudice and violence, facing isolation, and seeing her conjoint dreams being destroyed on the spot.


In the face of the occurrence, Ziki, who always seemed to be the strongest and the most resolute of the two, ends up surrendering, while Kena, already marked by a family shattered environment, holds on to her studies and a future career as a doctor.

Rafiki is a well-intentioned, if modest, drama that exposes intolerance, passion, and resistance, in a direct and simplistic way. In her sophomore feature, director Winuri Kahiu, who also co-wrote and co-produced, follows a stereotypical narrative that often struggles to surprise. Thus, from my perspective, the main interest here comes from the milieu and cultural background that supports the story.

Sadly, the film was unjustly banned in Kenya. Not because of any explicit scene, which is something Kahiu didn't incorporate, but because the ending was too hopeful and positive regarding lesbianism.


Nairobi Half Life (2012)

Nairobi Half Life (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: David Tosh Gitonga
Country: Kenya / Germany

Movie Review: “Nairobi Half Life”, Kenya’s first official entry for foreign-language film Oscar, presents us the dangers faced by young Mwas (Joseph Wairimu), who decides to leave his poor village to try his luck as an actor in Nairobi, by joining a street company that performed in his town. However, the adventure becomes turbulent, since Mwas is robbed at his arrival and then arrested for something he hasn’t done. Our sympathetic hero, always with a smile in his face, will manage to make some friends and ask for help, forcibly becoming a thief and gangster in order to survive in a merciful city ruled by corruption, prostitution, and crime. Whether some diverting episodes tried to ease the harshness of the story, like the way Mwas dealt with prostitutes, others simply imply that you need some madness (natural or fake) to keep going. Living in two incompatible worlds, he will try his best to get out of crime and stick to acting, which is his true passion. The consistent script is depicted with the help of several images where chaos and savagery reign, giving the precise idea of the overwhelming atmosphere lived. I found the cinematography very appealing, an aspect that is not always well achieved when it comes to African cinema. Sometimes disgustful, sometimes gritty, “Nairobi Half Life” loses some strength in its final third but succeeds in capturing the city vibes, giving us at the same time the personal story of a young man who refuses to give up his dreams.