Rafiki: A Lesbian Love Story from Kenya with a Happy Ending

Rafiki: A Lesbian Love Story from Kenya with a Happy Ending

What do you think when you hear that there is a lesbian movie from Kenya? Is that even possible? Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, so my biggest fear was that the movie was going to be full of hurt and pain, with no hopes of a good future. Can you imagine my surprise when I found out Rafiki actually has a happy ending?! This movie is wonderful, and I want to share with you what I liked about Rafiki and where you can watch it. You can read the blog post but you can also watch the video below this image.

‘Rafiki: A Lesbian Love Story from Kenya with a Happy Ending’ What do you think when you hear that there is a lesbian movie from Kenya? Is that even possible? Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, so my biggest fear was that the movie was going to be full of hurt and pain, with no hopes of a good future. Can you imagine my surprise when I found out Rafiki actually has a happy ending?! In this blog post, I share with you the 3 things I liked about Rafiki: http://bit.ly/RafikiKenya


Let me first tell you that you will have lots of feelings. Knowing the situation there, I was constantly scared for Kena and Ziki. You follow Kena, so you’re more scared for her as you see her in more situations.

The moments when she talks to friends and families, you are constantly wondering whether they are going to ask something or whether Kena reaches a point where she can’t take it anymore and yells out something. For instance, she is not “the only gay in the village.” There is a gay man, and everybody knows about him. Her friend laughs at him, has probably beat him up at one point, and bumps into him on purpose.

When Kena and Ziki find moments together, you are constantly worried they will get caught. And as I was not familiar with Kenyan culture, I did not know what the consequences would be if that were to occur. That adds to the tension even more.

A lot of feelings

Yes, they do get caught. Yes, bad things happen. It is bound to happen; you know it will at one point, and you will feel every fiber of your body object when you see the consequences.

And you will have a lot of feelings about the two town gossips. My biggest question is: what does it bring them, to hunt them down like that?

You will also have feelings about the two dad’s different responses. And then, you will have a LOT of feelings about the happy ending.

Basically, Rafiki is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but you can now be assured that you will not be crying for days. In fact, now that I know about the happy ending, I might want to watch it again just to be able to enjoy the story without having these feelings of tension the entire time.

The first thing I liked about Rafiki: the sheer fact that it is a lesbian love story from Kenya

Yes, critics who might say that Rafiki is another coming out and another coming of age movie are right. We get it: we want different narratives too. However, for a movie from Kenya to talk about a lesbian romance is huge. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and signs of it will be met with violent responses.

In fact, Rafiki was banned from screening in the country by Kenya’s Film and Classification Board (KFCB). KFCB said it banned Rafiki because of intent to “promote lesbianism” in the country: “The film has been restricted due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”


Director Wanuri Kahiu filed a lawsuit earlier challenging the censorship board’s ruling. She won, and the ban was temporarily lifted for seven days. This way, it could be eligible to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Academy Awards. As a result, Kenyans went to the cinema’s “en masse” to watch it.

Can you imagine the impact Rafiki can have on Kenyan queer women watching this movie? The hope and sense of community it can bring? And it does not even end badly, which I had to experience often growing up. I am so very happy for Kenyan queer women to be able to watch a high-quality lesbian movie with a happy ending.

The second thing I liked about Rafiki: getting a glimpse of Kenya

Not all is bad about Kenya. As a queer woman, I find it easy to be against everything Kenyan when I know about the situation there for my community. Consequently, I was hesitant to find Kenya’s beauty in this movie. However, the colors, the people, the language, the accent when they speak English, the games played in public, its nature; there was just so much to enjoy for me in my first introduction to Kenya. I always love seeing different cultures and countries, so this movie being set in Kenya definitely adds something for me.

The third thing I liked about Rafiki: the chemistry between Kena and Ziki

The chemistry between Kena and Ziki is certainly there. It is well played. Being in such a restrictive environment, you find ways to find a connection with a person. It starts with looks and with small talk. I was actually surprised that they went on a date quickly. It was at night, in the dark, but it still took me by surprise that they found that opportunity.

I also think that because it is illegal, a lot of people are not used to seeing our community. Therefore, they might not recognize things. I think that if you put Kena in the western world, many gaydars will go off. Here, she constantly gets hit on by men. When she puts on a dress, she is described as a proper lady. People do not seem to see it.

When the two town gossips start staring at them, I think it is more because they are the daughters of two political enemies rather than because it might be a starting romance.

Where can you watch it?

January 23-February 3, International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) takes place again and there, Rafiki will be screened.  Also, you can follow them on social media to find out when and where their movie will be screened. These are their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

According to a Facebook post, “Rafiki screened at over 100 film festivals and won 14 awards since May 2018, and this year is starting strong! In January you can catch the film in the US, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands.” Therefore, there is a good chance you will be able to see the movie at a festival near you.

Want more tips on what to watch? How about The DateDifferent for Girls or Anne+? Subscribe to my YouTube channel to hear my suggestions the moment they are uploaded!

A Girl’s Band/Una Banda de Chicas: A Feminist Take on Argentina’s Music Scene

A Girl’s Band/Una Banda de Chicas: A Feminist Take on Argentina’s Music Scene

International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) will take place January 23-February 3, 2019 and one of the LGBTQ movies it is showing is A Girl’s Band or Una Banda de Chicas. I have seen a screener of it, which means that I can tell you all about it. If you are looking for good LGBTQ movie tips for IFFR or a good LGBTQ movie tip in general, this blog post might be something for you. Below, I explain what A Girl’s Band is about and what I liked about this music documentary.

‘A Girl’s Band/Una Banda de Chicas: A Feminist Take on Argentina's Music Scene’ One of the LGBTQ movies IFFR is showing is A Girl’s Band or Una Banda de Chicas. I have seen a screener of it, which means that I can tell you all about it. If you are looking for good LGBTQ movie tips for IFFR or a good LGBTQ movie tip in general, this blog post might be something for you: http://bit.ly/AGirlsBand

Synopsis of A Girl’s Band

For six years, Marilina Giménez rocked the bass guitar in Yilet, a three-woman band in Argentina. But like female musicians everywhere, she was constantly confronted with a male-dominated, often sexist industry. In this documentary, she probes Argentina’s music scene with her camera and many pertinent questions. Why are there so few female superstars who write their own music? Why is it almost obligatory to look a certain way? Has the position of female musicians improved in recent decades?

Giménez moves through Buenos Aires by night, filming female artists (many of whom operate underground) attracting sell-out crowds with punk rock, reggaeton, pop or electronic music. She films them behind the scenes and in full glory on stage and listens to their experiences. As diverse as these women are, their stories of the sexism, inequality, and aggression they face are equally painful – whether they have dreadlocks, twerk in a G-string or pose in hipster attire.

What I like about A Girl’s Band: the introduction to Argentina’s music scene

Actually, the first thing that I like about A Girl’s Band is a very simple thing. It introduced me to the Argentinian music scene. I don’t know anything about it, so to see a diverse sample of this country’s music was highly entertaining and an exciting learning experience. Because most of the bands are underground bands, I am curious to know what mainstream is in Argentina and what role the underground music scene plays in Argentina.

What I like about A Girl’s Band: the feminist take on Argentina’s music scene

I think Giménez has an interesting take on her country’s music scene. She was part of it for years, and she now takes a step back to review it through the camera lens (and allows us to go on that journey with her). As a result, she shows a good understanding of what is honestly going on in Argentina’s music scene for women, and she has the connections to tell the whole story. That insider perspective makes you want to listen.

I was quite blown away by the gender inequality in Argentina’s music scene. It made me compare Argentina’s music scene to the Dutch music scene. I have no inside knowledge of our music scene, but I do know that the music scene is just one part of a bigger whole: our culture. If I compare Argentina and The Netherlands, I think Argentina has a more significant gender inequality. This must be reflected in the music scene as well because I simply cannot imagine the things happening in this documentary happening in my country too. Yes, the Dutch music industry is a man’s world too but not to the same extent.

I feel bad for these women just trying to follow their dreams and passion and barely surviving. The bravery they show is fantastic. I think that courage combined with good music is what made this documentary a fun watch.

What I like about A Girl’s Band: the diverse range of LGBTQ women

Look, whenever you have a big group of strong women, it is only natural that a part of those women is LGBTQ, amirite? This documentary shows a diverse range of LGBTQ women. There are differences in how they identify and how they look and dress. There are individuals, couples, and families. To me, this type of representation is beautiful!

One thing A Girl’s Band could have done better

If I must make a statement on something this movie can improve, it is the following. I noticed halfway watching the movie that I was missing a sense of direction. Why am I watching band after band after band play and introduce themselves? What do these band presentations mean? I mean, they are cool, but is this documentary simply a list of women in bands sharing their experiences?

Then, at the end of the documentary, there is an event that brings all these bands together. I won’t give away what it is. You see many familiar faces, and you see that many of them know each other. It is the moment the storyline of the documentary comes together.

I just wish I had known this a little earlier. In the beginning, I was trying to invest in the first bands, thinking we’d see more of their journey. However, by the time the fourth band was introduced, I did not feel like paying close attention anymore because I knew we would not establish a deeper connection. Therefore, a more evident storyline would have led me through these introductions better.

Where can you watch A Girl’s Band?

As mentioned, you can watch A Girl’s Band at IFFR, so check out their website for the schedule. However, if you are not close to Rotterdam January 23-February 3, you might want other options.

The best thing you can do is follow them on social media. There, they will tell you at what other film festivals the documentary will be screened. Here are their Instagram and Facebook pages. Another option is watching their Vimeo page since it has the trailer on it. They might upload their movie there after a festival run.

Want more tips on what to watch? How about The DateDifferent for Girls or Anne+? Subscribe to my YouTube channel to hear my suggestions the moment they are uploaded!

New Trans Movie: Girl

New Trans Movie: Girl

Last Friday, I was invited by IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) to visit their Mash-Up evening with Kunsthal Rotterdam, which is a museum of contemporary art. They had a pre-premiere screening of Lukas Dhont’s Girl and after that, we had the opportunity to visit the Action-Reaction exhibition and enjoy some music. In this blog post, I will briefly describe this new transgender movie. I do not want to give away too much because I highly recommend it and I just want you to see it for yourself. Below the image, you can find a video of me visiting the Mash-Up evening and discussing the movie. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you have not already!

‘New Trans Movie: Girl’ Last Friday, International Film Festival Rotterdam had a Mash-Up evening with Kunsthal Rotterdam. They showed a pre-premiere screening of Lukas Dhont’s feature-film debut Girl. In this blog post, I describe why you should go see this new transgender movie: http://bit.ly/GirlTrans


Girl is the astonishing feature-film debut of Flemish filmmaker Lukas Dhont. The movie tells the story of Lara, a 15-year-old girl, is born in the body of a boy and wants to become a ballerina. She is working really hard on her dancing and takes extra classes for this. At the same time, she also starts her hormone therapy. You can already tell this is going to be a massive challenge.

The leading role is played by Victor Polster, whose impressive performance was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize for Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival. Girl took home more awards from Cannes 2018. The film also won the FIPRESCI Prize, the Caméra d’Or, and the Queer Palm for best LGBT film.

The idea for Girl

In an interview with Screen Daily, which you should read in full, Lukas Dhont said that he was just 18 years old and still in the closet with his own homosexuality when he got the idea for Girl. He read a newspaper article about a girl in Belgium who had been born in a boy’s body but wanted to become a ballerina. “This story struck me so much. This 15-year-old has the courage not only to say, ‘I was born in the wrong body,’ but also to strive for this high form of femininity, to be a ballerina. She was a hero. I was 18 and up until that point, I had hidden a big point of myself. I said, ‘If I make a feature, I want it to be about this!’”

Girl is intense

I am glad Lukas did. What an intense movie Girl is. The entire time I felt Lara’s pain. Her pain is both emotional and physical. I mean, ballet dancing is painful and transitioning is painful; there is just so much pressure and tension 24/7. I was also constantly on guard for her, watching everybody closely to see how they would react to her. Already after twenty minutes, I was ready to find a relief. It made me wonder how Lara would find it. They sure know how to convey those feelings! Lara does find her relief in the end but is it really relief? Let’s just day the entire room of people gasped… Go watch it!

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More LGBT movie/series tips:

What lesbian movies can you watch at the 2018 Roze Filmdagen?

What lesbian movies can you watch at the 2018 Roze Filmdagen (Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival)?

March 8th to March 18th, you can visit the 21st edition of the Roze Filmdagen, which means the Pink Film Days, or the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival. It has so many great movies that I almost want to urge you to go every day. I completely understand it if you cannot clear your schedule for all 125 movies, so I have listed the top lesbian movies you should go and watch. The organization of the 2018 Roze Filmdagen has allowed me to watch some previews, so I can tell you what I thought of them. You can find the program here, which has info in Dutch and in English.

‘What lesbian movies can you watch at the 2018 Roze Filmdagen (Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival)?’ March 8-18, you can visit the 21st edition of the Roze Filmdagen, or the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival. I have listed the top lesbian movies you should go and watch. Find them here: http://bit.ly/2018RFD

2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 1: Days of Mercy

I have been waiting a while for this movie starring Ellen Page and Kate Mara. Now, we can finally watch it here in The Netherlands.  I wish I had been able to watch a preview for you, but alas.

With her father on death row, Lucy has been a passionate campaigner against the death penalty for years. Every weekend she and her siblings travel to a protest outside a jail. And every week they are met by death penalty supporters. Then, one day, one of ‘those people’, a young woman named Mercy, starts chatting her up.

Tip 2: Becks

On Twitter, Myron Floyd told me about this movie when I had just published my blog post about IFFR. It made me very curious, so I would like to see this one. Again, I was not able to watch a preview for you, so I cannot tell you if I am as excited about it as Myron is.

Betrayed by her girlfriend, aspiring singer/songwriter Becks returns to small-town America and her ultra-religious mother. After some self-pitying couch potato time, she ventures out into the world again, with some scandalous affairs waiting to happen. Tony Award winner Lena Hall shines in this warm, sexy and fun tale of a love life going bad in all the good ways.

2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 3: Seventeen

Oh, this movie is so cute! It has been a while since I was in high school but I do remember wanting things that just seemed so far out of reach or that were made impossible because of circumstances or other people’s behavior.

I loved listening to German and French again. I admired the protagonist for her discipline at home, looking after her father without her sister caring that much, and at school, doing “the nerdy thing” even though peer pressure could have led her to do “the cool thing.”

Oh, and ouch, the bad decisions you can make as a teenager! I truly wanted this movie to end differently. I am just going to leave it at that because I do not want to give away too much.

In the final weeks of school, we follow the trials and tribulations of a group of young teenagers. Paula is in love with Charlotte, who may be interested but is still also dating a boy. And then there is Lilli, who has an affair with a boy while they both have the hots for Paula. Their fluid sexualities are never considered a problem; they are simply a matter of fact in this refreshingly naturalistic portrait of life at seventeen.

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Tip 4: Signature Move

How refreshing to have so much diversity in one movie. We can get a glimpse of American, Pakistani, and Mexican culture as it is all combined in these eighty minutes. I have seen Fawzia Mirza in other LGBTQ productions but never in the lead of a movie; that is great for her! Apparently, she is also the writer and producer of this movie. I love how this movie is a love story in which both women are trying to balance their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and insecurities and that you follow all this through a story of wrestling. Yes, wrestling, what else?

Deliciously entertaining, this colorful love story is as much about culture as it is about love. Zaynab is lesbian, Muslim and of Pakistani origin. With an overbearing mother, things get complicated as she meets flirty ‘love-em-and-leave-em’ Alma, while she is also dabbling in her new-found love for Mexican style wrestling. Warm and witty, this is a real crowd-pleaser of a movie.

2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 5: Sisterhood

If you want to see a happy movie, this is not it. But to dismiss it just like that would mean you are missing out on a great movie. You can constantly feel Sei’s sadness about losing her best friend (yes, “best friend”) but at the same time, you are constantly smiling during the flashbacks of their friendship (yes, “friendship”) and hoping for happiness. As she has already passed away, you know from the start you are not going to get a happy ending but you are curious about how they met and what they meant to each other. Oh, and if you are curious about what happens in massage parlors, this movie might enlighten you.

Love intertwines at the wrong time. The past almost feels like a foreign country in Tracy Choi’s female-oriented melodrama, which juxtaposes the regrets over a lost lesbian romance with the alienation of a former Macau native as she returns to what is now a glamorous gambling capital. Great acting performances drive this award-winning film.

Tip 6: Hello Again

Yay, I loved this musical! If you are looking for a strictly lesbian movie, I urge you to broaden your mind and include this movie in your plans. This masterpiece is extremely well done. There are ten protagonists who all have two love stories. Or, should I say sex stories? The best thing is, they are all set in different eras and when they subtly change storylines, they still refer back to their old character with a line or two.

When the movie started, there was an insensitive sex scene that made me question whether I was going to like this movie but I am so glad I kept watching. The sex/love interest of the protagonist is the protagonist in the next sex/love story. The whole LGBTQ spectrum is incorporated into the stories. I especially loved seeing Jenna Ushkowitz and Tyler Blackburn in completely different roles from what they did in Glee and PLL.

Loosely based on the 1897 play “La Ronde”, this dazzling and sexy musical celebrates love, regardless of gender. Ten very New York encounters, each set in appropriate time and music styles. With the best of Broadway performers, the seemingly disconnected stories reveal their unifying factor – the human desire to love and be loved.

2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 7: Chavela

I had the pleasure of watching Chavela during IDFA’s Queer Day. Like I said in that blog, the movie immediately teaches you about her music. This builds the foundation of your documentary experience.

It slowly follows her life. It focuses on her songs, being nervous before performing, her flirting skills to alcoholism, being allowed to be a lesbian on stage but not in real life, and the lack of support from her family from an early age on.

You find out that she has a beautiful side and a dark side. The end of the movie, you grieve her death as if you have known her personally. The fact that you can become so emotionally attached to someone in a documentary means the creators have done a great job.

Tip 8: Mr. Gay Syria

You are right. Mr. Gay Syria is not a lesbian movie. Still, I want you to see it or at least know about it. I also had the pleasure of watching this documentary during IDFA’s Queer Day and it made a big impact on me. You are constantly hoping for Husein and his friends to get a break and be granted a visa. You are also left wondering about their culture. Even though they speak of it so lovingly, you never get to see the beauty of Syria. The despair is real. You cannot help but wonder what you would do had you been in the same situation.

So many options at the Roze Filmdagen!

These are my movie tips for the 2018 Roze Filmdagen. Still, there are so many movies, documentaries, and shorts that I still want to see. Also, there will be a screening of the winners of the 48 Hours Project. The project had an LGTBQ theme this year. So, the movies match the program of the 2018 Roze Filmdagen perfectly.

Want to stay in Amsterdam?

If you want to stay in Amsterdam for the 2018 Roze Filmdagen from March 8-18, I have found you some hotels on Booking.com.

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