The first time Wanuri Kahiu remembers seeing African people onscreen falling in love was when she was a teenager.
“Americans were falling in love and Europeans were falling in love,” she said, “but Africans, we were never falling in love. The first time I saw an African couple even hold hands on screen, I was 16.”
So for her second feature as a writer-director (following her 2009 debut “From a Whisper”), the Nairobi, Kenya-born filmmaker “wanted to be able to tell a love story about us.
“I just wanted to see ourselves fall in love,” she said.
Kahiu found that opportunity in “Rafiki,” an adaptation of Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story “Jambula Tree,” which was awarded the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007. The 90-minute drama follows two teenage girls (Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva) whose love for each other is opposed by their families and communities.
Ahead of the picture’s AFI Fest screenings on Sunday and Wednesday, Kahiu spoke to The Times via phone from New Zealand about “Rafiki,” its initial ban in her home country and the enduring message of the film — even though it wasn’t selected as Kenya’s official Academy Awards submission.
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