Jason Arment

Rafiki: Film Review, LGBT Rights in Kenya

Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva in Rafiki. (Film Movement)

Jason Arment reviews Rafiki, a film about a love that grows between two young women and sheds light on LGBT rights in Kenya. (Film Movement)


Rafiki takes place in Kenya and means “friend” in Kenyan. The movie follows the daughters of two rival politicians who catch feelings for each other after staring at one another from across the way. These scenes are the weakest of the film and will be regarded as silly by adults, but they are suited for a younger audience. When I watched the opening scenes of Rafiki, I hoped the rest of the movie wasn’t going to remind me of Saved by the Bell.

The rest of the film was enough to keep myself and other adults far above the film’s targeted age range interested and in our seats. The ending, although not nearly as harsh as it could have been, is enough realistic to be believable, considering the circumstances the characters are thrust into. It was a sad end, with a good deal of the film’s innocence burning up in what the viewer and protagonists don’t think possible. There were some characters who had known it was possible, but the words and actions used to describe the future for homosexuals were much like what I hear regularly around me in the United States.


Rafiki is a film that the whole family will be able to enjoy (besides the beginning) and ends on several sobering notes that I won’t soon forget.


I’d recommend the movie to its target audience without reservation, although I would suggest popcorn. The film has a great deal of screen time that’s just fun, and there isn’t enough dark material to put you off your appetite. The material that is dark is handled tastefully without minimizing what’s happening on the screen.

If I were to find grievous shortcomings with the film, it would be all of the missed instances where they could have created and built suspense about how the protagonists need to be careful, and not just because their dads are running against each other as local politicians. The film also didn’t do a great job of fleshing out the relatives of the two young women who star in it.

Rafiki is a film that the whole family will be able to enjoy (besides the beginning) and ends on several sobering notes that I won’t soon forget.



Jason Arment is the author of Musalaheen, a war memoir published by University of Hell Press.


Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

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