Directed and written by Wanuri Kahiu, a relative newcomer, Rafiki tells the story of two politicians’ daughters that strike up a relationship. All is not good, however, as the two struggle to deal with, amongst other things, their families’ rivalry and the potential jeopardising of their fathers’ careers. The film delves deep into their family issues while discussing social and political issues that the two face as lesbians in Kenya. Starring Samantha Mugatsia, Neville Misati, Jimmy Gathu, and Sheila Munyiva (all new to the scene), Rafiki only totals at 83 minutes but manages to remain unrushed and this short runtime does not at all diminish the emotional impact of the film.
Performances and Casting
Especially considering that almost all of the involved cast-members and crew are fairly new to the scene (and therefore pretty much wild cards), the cast is extremely well assembled and there is not a single weak link amongst the cast. Stand-out performances from Munyiva and Gathu.
Screenplay and Directions
I was very impressed by the direction and screenplay in this film. A point of interest specifically was how naturally the script shifts between English and Swahili, making totally natural transitions without making it difficult to understand the film or pulling you out of the experience at all. Besides, it’s nice to see a new female director on the scene.
Costumes, Set Design, and Music
Both costumes and set design are understandably low budget but pretty well done considering this restraint. The music is consistently creative and lively (when intended) throughout, bringing a rhythmic vibrancy to the film. It could have, however, been much improved as it was a little less than I was hoping for.
The film opens with a brilliantly bright and colourful credit sequence that is one of the most interesting and artful introductions to a film I’ve seen in a long while (though I do love credits opening a film). It did, however, contrast peculiarly with a lot of the rest of the film. The cinematography was brilliant throughout and honestly one of the standout things about the film. Also, there is some extremely creative and unique editing in the film that genuinely stands out from any other film I have seen this year.
In summary, though the story was rather predictable and the concept was not particularly unique, Rafiki does deliver a brilliant, unique experience that does carry a lot of emotional weight. I’d definitely recommend catching the film if you can. I would recommend it for a cinema visit, however, not because of the better experience, but more to support such a great collection of filmmakers that deserve an entrance to the industry.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
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