Chicago Film Festival 2018: Rafiki (Friend)


With a love story set in the country of Kenya, Rafiki (Friend) announces the coming of Wanuri Kahiu as a filmmaker to watch.

Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) have always been friends.  This is in spite of their families being the Kenyan equivalent of the Capulet and Montague.  While this may add some tension to their friendship, it doesn’t stop their friendship from becoming something more.  The society that they live in says that they can’t be anything more than friends.  If they stay together, the two will be happy.  Will they be safe?  Nobody really knows.

When one is a member of the LGBTQ community, it’s always fascinating to see how these stories are told in other countries.  One thing to take into account in watching Rafiki is that it’s illegal to be gay or lesbian in Kenya.  The term “rafiki” is used as a way for someone to introduce their partner because it means “friend” in Swahili.  This is a dire shame.  Two people in love should be open about it!  I give director Wanuri Kahiu credit in telling this story because of that alone.  It takes a lot of nerve to make a film like this in a country where same-sex attraction comes off as taboo.  The fact that the film is banned in Kenya really speaks to the country’s culture.

Rafiki speaks to the conservative environment from which the film originates while also saying there’s nothing wrong with these two humans falling in love.

DIRECTOR:  Wanuri Kahiu
SCREENWRITER:  Wanuri Kahiu and Jenna Bass
CAST:  Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Jimmi Gathu, Nini Wacera, Dennis Musyoka, Patricia Amira, Neville Misati, Muthoni Gathecha, Nice Githinji, Charlie Karumi

Rafiki (Friend) screens during the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival. Film Movement is planning a 2019 release.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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