Making its world premiere screening in the Un Certain Regard section of the the 2018 Cannes Film Festival is Rafiki (Friend), from multi-award-winning Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu, whose past work has received much coverage here on S&A (including the sci-fi short film Pumzi), and who is also currently working with award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor to develop the animated feature The Camel Racer (selected for the Triggerfish Story Lab, a program sponsored in part by Disney).
Ms. Kahiu was also once attached to direct what was to be a feature film adaptation of Okorafor’s post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Who Fears Death, which is with HBO as a potential series with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin producing.
Inspired by the 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story titled Jambula Tree by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko and produced by super producer Steven Markovitz, Rafiki is a love story about two girls, Kena and Ziki, who live in a housing estate in Nairobi, Kenya. The girls are unlikely friends, and their fathers are rival politicians. When they fall in love and the community finds out, the girls are forced to choose between love and safety as two girls on different paths and the difficult decisions each must make about the life they lead and the ramifications of their choices.
The project, a South African/Kenyan/French/Netherlanders/German co-production (Big World Cinema/Awali Entertainment/MPM Film/Rinkel Film/Razor Film Produktion), was first shopped at the Cannes Market in 2014, so it’s been a long journey, and it’s only fitting that it makes its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes 2017 saw Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch make its world premiere, and I could probably count on one hand the number of feature films directed by black women filmmakers that have made their world premieres (or even just screened) at Cannes. This might be the very first time that, in back-to-back years, features by black women filmmakers have premiered at the world’s most prestigious film festival.
Check out a few press images from Rafiki.