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Video still via Youtube.

Wanuri Kahiu Speaks on the Overwhelming Response to 'RAFIKI' at Cannes

"It doesn't matter where in the world you are, we all kind of fall in love in the same way."

When the credits rolled and the lights came up at the end of her film's premiere in the Palais des Festival, director Wanuri Kahiu stood next to her lead actresses Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva, all dressed in off-white outfits, taking in the acclaim of a standing ovation. Someone in the audience shouted, 'Thank you!' and Kahiu put her hand over her heart. Festival director Thierry Fremaux motioned for them to look up and see just how many people were clapping in the theatre's balcony seats too, lauding the first Kenyan film to ever debut at the Cannes Film Festival.

"What's incredible about the response is that people are so excited about watching 'happy Africa,' Kahiu tells me the next day, with the Cote d'Azur shimmering in the sun behind her. "That's been the most curious thing. I haven't been reading reviews because I tend not to, good or bad, but somebody said there is a French journalist who wrote an article which said, 'How do Kenyans fall in love? The exact same way we do.' And that was exactly what I was trying to communicate with this film. It doesn't matter where in the world you are, we all kind of fall in love in the same way. We all kind of have joy in the same way."


Reaction to Rafiki at the various screenings it's had here at Cannes have been centered on the idea of how important it is—and how refreshing—to see the kinds of stories like the one the film portrays, up on a big screen. Rafiki is the coming of age tale of two young women in Nairobi who fall in love, much to the chagrin of those around them, who live in a country with a homophobic government.

The film's banning too, by the Kenyan Film Commission, has been well-publicized, making the response it has been receiving at the festival even more poignant. Kahiu believes the film is connecting with people because it shows Africans in a different way to the poverty and political conflict so often shown on cinema. "People are so anxious to watch a joyful African film—and a modern African film at that," she says. "Because that was the other thing; there were many people who told us they love the idea of seeing urban Africa on the screen. 'We love that it was shot in a city, that it's playful and fun.' And that's been the biggest, most extraordinary reaction," she continues.

Video still via Youtube.

That Rafiki made it to the grande dame of film festivals at all is a testimony to the tenacity Kahiu and her co-producers had in seeing the film get made. She and South African producer Steven Markowitz initially began working on it seven years ago, after meeting at the Sundance Film Festival, where Kahiu had shown her short film, Pumzi. Overcoming the obstacles it took to get the movie made—not least of which, the banning by the Kenyan Film Commission, for 'seeking to normalize homosexuality'—marks the moment with greater significance too. The filmmakers didn't receive any funding from either South Africa or Kenya and had to go to four co-production markets and send in over 50 funding applications to find the 30 financiers that would support the film to being made.

During that time, 36-year-old Kahiu gave birth to two children, all the while hanging onto the dream of seeing her movie become a reality. "I remember coming to pitch at LaFabrique (Cannes' program to help develop talented young filmmakers) the first time, with my 5-month-old, who was throwing up at producer's tables. It was fantastic!" she laughs.

Video still via Youtube.

Returning to Cannes five years later, with her movie in the Un Certain Regard portion of the festival has been a welcome outcome after the years of uncertainty. She says she relied on her relationships with Markowitz and fellow co-producer Tamsin Ranger to get her through the tough times. "We would have many many Skype calls," says Kahiu. "Talking and transparency helped a lot: 'Okay, we got rejected again!' and then moving on," she says.

This trip to Cannes has just further stoked her flame – for the love she's received, and the knowledge gained. "I want to come back with more films. And I want to be in the main competition," she says. "And I definitely want to perfect my craft. There's beem lots of good feedback for me on how to improve my craft." She also says she'd like to see more African countries coming together to produce films – the way that Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, where the story Rafiki is based on comes from, did.

As for the ban on her movie in Kenya, Kahiu lives in optimism. "We really hope that the ban will reverse," she says. "At some point it will play in Kenya. We just don't know when."

Interview
Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Black Major/Bongeziwe Mabandla.

Interview: Bongeziwe Mabandla's New Album Is a Calm Meditation On Relationships

We speak with the South African artist about his captivating new album, iimini, love cycles, and the unexpected influence of Bon Iver.

"I've been playing at home for so many years and pretending to be having shows in my living room, and today it's actually happening," Bongeziwe Mabandla says, smiling out at me from my cellphone as I watch him play songs on Instagram Live, guitar close to his chest.

Two weekends ago, Mabandla was meant to be celebrating the release of his third album, iimini, at the Untitled Basement in Braamfontein in Joburg, which would no doubt have been packed with some of the many fans the musician has made since his debut release, Umlilo, in 2012. With South Africa joining many other parts of the world in a lockdown, those dates were cancelled and Mabandla, like many other artists, took to social media to still play some tracks from the album. The songs on iimini are about the life and death of a relationship—songs that are finding their way into the hearts of fans around the world, some of whom, now stuck in isolation, may be having to confront the ups and downs of love, with nowhere to hide.

The day before his Instagram Live mini-show, Mabandla spoke to OkayAfrica on lockdown from his home in Newtown about the lessons he's learned from making the album, his new-found love for Bon Iver, and how he's going to be spending his time over the next few weeks.

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Interview
Lueking Photos. Courtesy of emPawa Africa.

Interview: GuiltyBeatz Proves He's Truly 'Different'

The Ghanaian producer talks to us about his debut EP, Different, the massive success of "Akwaaba," producing for Beyoncé and more.

GuiltyBeatz isn't a new name in the Ghanaian music scene. A casual music fan's first introduction to him would've likely been years ago on "Sample You," one of Mr Eazi's early breakout hits. However, he had scored his first major hit two years before that, in the Nigerian music space on Jesse Jagz' and Wizkid's 2013 hit "Bad Girl." In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists.

In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists, having worked with the likes of Efya, Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Stonebwoy, Bisa Kdei, Wande Coal, Moelogo and many more over the last decade. The biggest break of the talented producer's career, however, came with the arrival of his own single "Akwaaba".

In 2018, GuiltyBeatz shared "Akwaaba" under Mr Eazi's Banku Music imprint, shortly afterwards the song and its accompanying dance went viral. The track and dance graced party floors, music & dance videos, and even church auditoriums all around the world, instantly making him one of Africa's most influential producers. Awards, nominations, and festival bookings followed the huge success of "Akwaaba." Then, exactly a year later, the biggest highlight of his career so far would arrive: three production credits on Beyoncé's album The Lion King: The Gift.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

Nollywood Actress, Funke Akindele, Arrested for Throwing Party During Coronavirus Lockdown

Naira Marley, who was also in attendance, has also turned himself in according to local reports.

Star Nigerian actress, Funke Akindele, and her husband, rapper JJC Skillz, were arrested on Monday after hosting a party at their home which violated Lagos' coronavirus lockdown order.

The actress came under fire over the weekend, when footage of a party she threw for her husband's birthday began circulating on social media. The clips showed several people, including fellow Nollywood actress Eniola Badmus and Nigerian rapper Naira Marley, gathered inside of Akindele's Lagos home. According to a report from Pulse Nigeria, Marley also turned himself in on Monday for attending the function and will be arraigned.

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Screenshot from YouTube.

Watch Champagne69’s Music Video for ’15 Goons’

Champagne69 release a music video for their single '15 Goons.'

South African hip-hop duo Champagne69 shared a new music video for their single "15 Goons." The song was produced by NotBenjamin alongside Ezechiel (SorryZeke).

"15 Goons" is a minimalist 808 and bass-laden tune in which the duo glide with ease as they pay homage to their goons.

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