Kenyan Lesbian Drama ‘Rafiki’ Screening At The Brisbane International Film Festival

Kenyan lesbian film Rafiki

Acclaimed drama film Rafiki, banned in its native Kenya for its lesbian themes, is screening this month at the Brisbane International Film Festival.

The film depicts the love that blossoms between characters Kena and Ziki, but the pair are forced to choose between their personal happiness and their safety in Kenya.

Earlier this year, Rafiki became the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, but was banned from release in its home country “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”

Writer/director Wanuri Kahiu sued, and a judge allowed the film to screen in the country for one week so it would be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. That week alone, the film broke Kenyan box office records.

Now Brisbane audiences will be able to watch the film at two screenings – on Friday, October 12 and Wednesday, October 17 – as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF).

From today, BIFF 2018 will celebrate 11 days of contemporary international and Australian screen culture at its new home at the Gallery of Modern Art in South Brisbane.

This year’s program features more than 100 Australian and international feature, documentary and short films screening at GOMA and several partner venues across the city until October 21.

There’s also a selection of special events, panels and workshops being held across Brisbane for the festival.

See below for a list of queer picks at this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival. For venues, screening times and the full lineup, visit the BIFF website here.


Banned in its home country Kenya for its lesbian romance, Rafiki is the tale of the burgeoning love between Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva).

The daughters of two political opponents who are running for a local election, teenagers Kena and Ziki must choose between community acceptance or their relationship.

With stylish cinematography and colours that pop, the film includes a dynamic, female-led soundtrack featuring Afro-electro hip-hop musician Muthoni Drummer Queen.

Director Wanuri Kahiu is part of a new generation of African storytellers who, through art and film and Kahiu’s organisation Afrobubblegum, aim to create a representation of Africa that is fun, frivolous and fierce.


From coded looks to dance parties, the HIV/AIDS crisis and legal landmarks, this exhilarating film is a bittersweet celebration of queer life.

Unearthing gems from the British Film Institute archive, Queerama captures how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer histories have been presented on screen since 1919.

Rapid-fire clips — with filmic excerpts ranging from Victim 1961 to Orlando 1992, alongside educational and documentary footage — are set to a soundtrack featuring Goldfrapp, Hercules and Love Affair, and John Grant to conjure a loose narrative of shifting social attitudes.

Director Daisy Asquith elegantly captures both intimate and momentous moments in queer history in a 100-year montage of persecution and celebration that reveals the fears and desires of multiple generations of LGBTIQ people in Britain.

The Wild Boys

Distinctly erotic, tropical and surreal, The Wild Boys is a gender- and genre-bending treat.

After committing a horrible crime against their teacher, a group of early 20th century bourgeois boys (played by female actors) are sent off to be reformed by a repressive boat captain. Cast away on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean following their rebellion, they encounter intoxicating vegetation with transformative powers.

Licentiousness and violence overtake their claustrophobic world, and their toxic masculinity deliriously implodes. The fantastical set design in this luscious film brings spurting phallic flowers to life, making it even more surprising that it was shot on location.

Knife + Heart (Un Couteau Dans Le Coeur)

Knife + Heart is a wild and sexy thrill ride set amid the 1970s French gay porn industry, brought to life by a lurid giallo-inspired aesthetic and a pounding soundtrack from M83.

The film’s story finds Anne (Vanessa Paradis), an alcoholic porn director, struggling to win back the love of her ex-girlfriend. After one of her actors is murdered during a visit to a nightclub, she realises that her acting troupe is under attack by a mysterious killer.

Police indifference forces her to take on the investigation. Director Yann Gonzalez keeps the tension high throughout this colourful and darkly funny thriller, where the only guarantee is that the murders will get more elaborate and salacious as the killer strikes again.

A Skin So Soft (Ta Peau Si Lisse)

An unusually poetic study of six male bodybuilders in provincial Canada, auteur Denis Côté’s A Skin So Soft is a thoughtful examination on the quest for masculine physical perfection.

This impressionistic documentary captures not only the passion and artistry of the act of self-sculpture but also the tender side of musclemen who balance their physical dedication with family obligations and relationships.

A Skin So Soft advances a surprisingly sensitive perspective on contemporary masculinity, the human body and gender stereotypes. In this subculture of extreme diets and distorted rituals, Côté foregrounds vulnerability and humanity against an appetite for clenched and bronzed muscle.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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