TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Rafiki’

TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Rafiki’

Afro Bubblegum is an art sub genre that’s making its way into cinema. However this first entry, Rafiki, is not a successful one. It’s a temperamental movie. In scenes it follows the genres bursts of energy and in others it whimpers disappointingly.

‘Rafiki’ is ‘friend’ in Swahili, an official language in Kenya. There, the film finds itself depicting the relationships of Kena Mwaura (Samatha Mugatsia). She’s a politician’s daughter who slowly cuts off her male friends when she hangs out with Ziki Okemi (Sheila Munyiva).

When they’re not together, Kena hangs out with Blacksta (Neville Misati). He’s a philandering dirt bag who she still hangs out with even if he’s romantically pursuing her. Ziki might be a positive influence to Kena, some speculate.

Kena’s friendship with Ziki has its strings, which include their fathers’ rivalries. Ziki’s father Peter (Dennis Musyoka) is vying for Kena’s father John’s (Juimmi Gattu) seat. Both men are getting increasingly irate but it might get worse when they find out about Kena and Ziki’s relationship.

Ziki suggests for them to have their own place and a life where their relationship is real. Anyway, they’re also playing teenagers waiting for marks that will get them to university. Unfortunately they look too old for those roles.

All of this, the bad casting and the plot holes makes me wish for better in queer African cinema. There is, however, a third act turn that reminds audiences of the realities of LGBT life there. But that comes in too late.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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