The Gene Siskel Film Center presents programming in the spirit of the Black Harvest Film Festival all year long!
2018, Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya/South Africa/France, 82 min.
With Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva
“Chemistry that perfectly encapsulates the exhilarating rush of romance and first love…the neon-pink romance RAFIKI is exactly what the world needs.”--Katy Moon, One Room with a View
“A fully black, beautiful, lesbian love story…colorful, warm, and real.”--Joi Childs, Shadow and Act
Banned in its home nation of Kenya just prior to its international premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, RAFIKI dares to confront African cultural, religious, and legal taboos in order to celebrate the star-crossed but passionately inevitable love story of two young Kenyan women. With political rival fathers running against each other for public office, tomboy Kena (Mugatsia) and pink-braided fashion-conscious Zika (Munyiva) find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide. They are drawn together nevertheless, with a conspicuous magnetism that will rile Kena’s religiously devout mother and Zika’s powerful and vengeful father, and set tongues wagging maliciously in Nairobi’s Slopes neighborhood. Basing her script on the story “Jambala Tree” by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko, director Kahiu communicates the irrepressible joy of first love, even as her heroines bravely choose to face the consequences of being different. In English and Swahili with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
1980, Franco Rosso, U.K., 95 min.
With Brinsley Forde, Archie Pool, Trevor Laird
"Still feels new…it's got an episodic vividness and a blanket-load of warmth."--Wesley Morris, The New York Times
"An English cousin to the earlier Jamaica-set films THE HARDER THEY COME and ROCKERS that is vastly superior in cinematic terms and just as valuable as a cultural document."--John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter
Released in 1980 in Britain, this hard-hitting semi-documentary drama set amid the Jamaican/reggae subculture of South London achieved critical acclaim and cult status despite being slapped with an X rating. Considered too incendiary and culturally specific for American import, it is just now receiving its first U.S. release in a newly restored version. Set against a background of rising racial tensions in Thatcher's England, the loose narrative centers on Blue (Forde, front man of the leading reggae group Aswad), DJ for the "sound system" crew Ital Lion, as he and his mates cruise through London in their lion-emblazoned van, cadge sound equipment by hook or by crook, barter for the latest records, and prepare for a musical showdown with the rival crew Shaka. Co-scripted by Martin Stellman (QUADROPHENIA) and first-time director Rosso, lensed by Oscar-winner Chris Menges (THE KILLING FIELDS), and scored by top reggae producer Dennis Bovell, BABYLON presents a sympathetic but unsanitized view of the rude boy world, acknowledging its shortcomings (sexism, homophobia, retaliatory racism) alongside the pervasive white racism and police brutality that finally drives the easygoing Blue to the brink. In English and Jamaican patois with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)