Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-09-18
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



MOVIES Director Wanuri Kahiu on groundbreaking film 'Rafiki'
by Matt Simonette

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Director Wanuri Kahiu said there was one main idea that drew her to adapt the 2007 short story "Jambula Tree" for the screen: "It was incredibly important for me to show that falling in love is falling in love, anywhere in the world."

After years of effort on Kahiu's part, the resulting film, Rafiki—which translates as "friend," the euphemism many LGBT folks give to their lovers and partners—debuted last year and is just now arriving in many cities in the United States. The film runs at the Gene Siskel Film Center April 26-May 3.

Set in Nairobi, Kenya, Rafiki depicts the burgeoning relationship between Kena ( Samantha Mugatsia ), the daughter of a local merchant and city politician, and Ziki ( Sheila Munyiva ), the daughter of her father's political rival. What starts as an innocent first romance for Kena becomes resistance to one struggle after another. Kena and Ziki must endure homophobia emanating from their church, the toxic masculinity of their male friends and, ultimately, the state itself.

"It was incredibly important for me to make a love story," explained Kahiu. "We don't get to see people from my side of the world falling in love. It's almost assumed that we don't fall in love—we get married and we procreate, but we don't necessarily fall in love."

Kahiu and her colleagues set out to depict Nairobi as an especially sensuous setting in Rafiki. Colors pop from the screen in several moments, from Ziki's colorful outfits to the motorcycle driven by Kena's friend Blacksta. Noises from the cityscape are a constant on its soundtrack, except notably when Kena and Ziki can steal rare and quiet moments together.

"Nairobi is an incredibly colorful place," Kahiu explained. "We had to pay attention to that, and be aware of that. The space we were shooting in it was full of color, and it needed to be part of the technique of the storytelling. We used color ... when the girls were apart from each other, and when they were together, we brought down the colors and made it more subtle and softer, to give them a sense of peace and calm. We did the same thing with the sound."

Rafiki debuted in 2018 as an Un Certain Regard entry at the Cannes Film Festival; it was the first Kenyan film to screen at the festival. But the film's subject matter resulted in it being banned in its home country—except for a one-week run so that the film could qualify as an Academy Awards submission.

"It took seven years to find the financing because people did not want to put money to a lesbian African film," she said. "But we were very persistent, and we were very stubborn. We wanted to create the film, and we also wanted to retain the creative rights to the film. We got some funding from individuals in Kenya, but most of the money came from outside grants and financing."

Kahiu said that she was not surprised by the ban: "They'd banned films before, even cartoons like [Nickelodeon television series] Hey Arnold!, for promoting lesbianism or 'gayism,' which is a uniquely Kenyan word, for creating work that goes against norms and values. So we knew that there was a possibility of being banned. A film before ours, called The Stories of Our Lives had also been banned. When it happened, I was more disappointed than surprised."

There was "a very, very kind response" from those who did see the film in its brief exhibition window, Kahiu said. "We just received such love, and an overwhelming amount of support."

Kahiu, who said she has both another film and a television series in the works, has been critical of African filmmakers whose output has largely been formulated in response to non-government organizations and other funders that inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes of African people as Others.

"I make stories of joy and hope," she said. "It's especially important to make stories of joy and hope, especially in the current world, and because we come from a place that is often not displayed with sensitivity and kindness. I have to be quite firm with the way that I create characters and stories that [evoke] the possibilities of what the world can be."

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Sisters in Cinema launches fellowship for Black women filmmakers, LBTQ stories 2019-09-21 - Sisters in a SIC ) with support from Chicago Women's Foundation LBTQ Giving Council has awarded three first-time feature filmmakers with a $2,500 ...

Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot announces final Budget Town Hall 2019-09-19 - CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced a fifth and final Budget Town Hall to be held Wednesday, October 2 from 6-8 ...

Gay News

Black Alphabet film fest to honor Trans Awareness Week 2019-09-19 - Black Alphabet Film Festival returns for its seventh year, showcasing films that highlight and explore the LGBTQ and same-gender-loving ( SGL ) experience—and ...

Gay News

Lightfoot introduces LGBT business resolution 2019-09-18 - On Sept. 18, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot introduced a resolution acknowledging LGBT-owned business enterprises ( LGBTBEs ) and their contributions to Chicago's ...

Gay News

MOVIES A look at what's hitting the big screens this fall 2019-09-18 - Fall back into the movie theater after a summer that certainly had some lackluster moments, cinematically. We head into awards season and it ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Wendy Jo Carlton explores life, love in 'Good Kisser' 2019-09-18 - Wendy Jo Carlton is an out director, producer and teacher known for indie films like Hannah Free, starring Sharon Gless, and the lesbian ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Lesbian director highlights queer history in 'The Archivettes' 2019-09-18 - Megan Rossman is an out and proud lesbian filmmaker. But while making The Archivettes, whose Chicago premiere is part of the Reeling Film ...

Gay News

Jason Stuart makes it into the middle of the Midwest 2019-09-17 - Actor Jason Stuart has over 35 years of steady work on film and television as a character actor. He came out of the ...

Gay News

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas returns to the Auditorium Theatre 2019-09-17 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) The live concert experience of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas returns to the Auditorium Theatre for the second ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Unexpected legend takes stage in 'Broadway' 2019-09-17 - He calls women "darling" and drops f-bombs in the same sentence. He's both Jewish and gay, and has never hidden either. He keeps ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.