The 71st Cannes Film Festival kicked off last night, and today’s programming seems to have some delights for audiences.
One film is winning a lot of praise today. “Rafiki” is a drama from Kenya that tells the story of two women who fall in love in a society that refuses to recognize their relationship. The film is Africa’s sole representative at Cannes, and is also banned in its own country. The Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film for its homosexual scenes, which are illegal in Kenya.
“Rafiki” is based on the short story “Jambala Tree,” which won awards in 2007 when it was first published. This film is presented in Un Certain Regard, and is one of very few films at the festival directed by women. Wanuri Kahiu directs this, her second feature film.
Here are some of the reactions from Cannes attendees:
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) May 9, 2018
Lessons in great filmmaking day one at Cannes. Strong and direct in its telling and with each frame gorgeous, Rafiki glows with its luminescent lesbian love story and rages against the system that would quash it. Shame on the Kenyan censors for the ban. #Rafiki
— Lizzie Francke (@lizziefrancke) May 9, 2018
RAFIKI: a sensual dreamlike romance between 2 very different teenage girls, crashing against the homophobic Kenyan society that director Wanuri Kahiu still refuses to demonise at all. The chemistry between Samantha Mugatsia & Sheila Munyiva made me cry out of sheer joy #Cannes71
— A SERIOUS MANI (@ManiLazic) May 9, 2018
Wanuri Kahiu’s #Rafiki is sweet & fizzy, with sincere performances. Though laboured direction leaves it feeling emotionally flat. Still, given the subject, and the socio-political backdrop against which it’s told, one can’t help but admire it’s simple message of hope. #Cannes2018
— James McAllister (@jamesmca90) May 9, 2018
Like most films, it was not universally loved. Most of the comments against it shared similar criticisms:
Really wanted to love the Kenyan LGBT film #Rafiki at #cannes2018, but didn’t. Nice lead performances, some beautiful scenes, and a mostly strong second half that’s moving at times. But cliched writing and plot keeps the film from fully satisfying. 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.
— Benoit Denizet-Lewis (@BenoitDLewis) May 9, 2018
All told, it seems to be a successful outing for the up-and-coming filmmaker. Wanuri Kahiu sat down for an interview at the festival, which you can read on their official website.
Be sure to watch the official trailer: