Film Society Selection
(First of two films this month)
book a ticket for this and forthcoming BFS screenings please contact the
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Tickets: Mon-Thur evenings & all matinees £9.50, Conc £8.50, Members £7.50
Fri-Sun evenings £9.50, Members £7.50
BFS Members £7.10 for BFS films - you may be asked to show your membership card. Phone reservations can be held for 4 days.
Tuesday 8th October 7.30pm
FILM RECEIVED 13 WINS AND 15 NOMINATIONS
Kahiu, Kenya/South Africa/Germany, 2018, 82 minutes, Swahili/English with
Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati
The relationship that blossoms between two young women forces them to choose
between openness and secrecy, happiness and safety. A tender love-story,
this ground-breaking work has a fresh, sweet chemistry between its two leads.
Carried off with confidence and polish GUARDIAN
are Illegal PG
Dir. Edward Bulmer, UK, 2016, 90 secs
In a world where ideas are illegal, workers in a factory are made to wear giant light bulbs on their heads.
is a lesbian romance set in a place where such love stories, in real
life and onscreen, are forbidden by law. It is the first Kenyan film
to be screened at Cannes and, more importantly, the first film with
a positive message about homosexuality to play in Kenyan theaters. The
latter occurred after a successful Supreme Court defeat of a ban imposed
by the government. In the ruling, the judge wrote, I am not convinced
that Kenya is such a weak society whose moral foundation will be shaken
by watching a film depicting a gay theme. And yet, morality is
a commonly used excuse wielded like a cudgel against civil rights at
worst, mere representation at best. Why is the act of being seen in
a positive light such a moral threat?
Ziki and Kena are the daughters of rival politicians, which adds an extra layer of problems to their relationship. Gossips like storefront owner Mama Atim (Muthoni Gathecha) cant wait to wag their tongues about the burgeoning friendship between the progeny of political enemies. Theres also a class difference. Kenas dad, John (Jimmy Gathu) runs a store while the more financially successful Okemis are, in the words of Kenas mother, folks who can elevate you. These issues would be enough strife for most cinematic lovers, but theres also the patriarchal ideas perpetuated by Nairobi society. Good Kenyan girls make good Kenyan wives, were told. The men we meet like Blacksta (Neville Misati) flaunt the one-sided rules of romantic entanglement, peppering any and every woman with raunchy come-ons. They also torture the one man they consider to be gay, yelling homophobic slurs at him as he quietly walks through the neighborhood.
This nameless manthe film never reveals whether he is gay or just perceived as suchbecomes a rather blatant symbol of the countrys homophobia. He never gets a line of dialogue, which bothered me initially because I saw his existence as an empty gesture. But, late in the film, Kahiu upended my expectations in a scene where he quietly sits next to a battered, heartbroken Kena. As the two share the frame, neither making eye contact with the other, I hoped for some exchanged words. Instead, the scene ends in silence and I realized that the visual of a shared solidarity was more powerful than anything that could have been said in that moment.
Rafiki has several quiet scenes like that, which elevates the familiar material. And unlike older films such as The Childrens Hour, this doesnt end with sacrifice and punishment but with hope and ambiguity. Munyiva and Mugatsia are both excellent, sharing an energetic chemistry that the film cant help but amplify in its tone. This is a bittersweet yet ultimately positive depiction of young, forbidden love that radiates empathy by showing how misguided it is to be against this kind of devotion. Kahiu draws blood with a pray away the gay scene that left me fuming, but she also finds a surprising level of understanding in a few secondary characters.
ban was lifted and Rafiki got a weeks run in Kenyan
theaters, it sold out and even beat Black Panther at the
box office. I imagine some of that came from a morbid how bad
could it be to have been banned? curiosity, but Ill bet
most of the audience was driven to it simply to feel the joy of seeing
themselves warmly represented onscreen. To feel seen is a potent, potentially
life-changing emotion, and only those who were never in the dark would
have a moral problem with it. Rafiki makes this serious
point quite effectively, never losing its ebullience.
Odie Henderson on rogerebert.com