Rafiki Wins Two Awards at Africa Movies Academy Awards

Wanuri Kahiu’s undaunted Rafiki was one of the winners at the Africa Movies Academy Awards 2019 (AMAA) that was held in Lagos on Sunday. Rafiki won Best Achievement in Editing and Best Film in an African Language out of ten nominations it received in September.

Rafiki which was released in 2018 is currently embroiled in a court battle with the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) after Wanuri sued the board in an attempt to lift the ban imposed on the film. In a recent tweet, Wanuri announced the screening of Rafiki to a closed audience at Milimani High Court as part of evidence in the case.

Despite its unending troubles in Kenya, Rafiki became Kenya’s first feature to be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, amassed over fifteen awards at international film festivals and continues to be recognized and screened in film festivals worldwide. 

Rafiki also currently holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was greatly praised by critics with The Guardian calling it a “ground-breaking lesbian romance”. The Mirror described it as “both a piece of engaging cinema and a political message” while Variety described it as “modest, flawed and valuable.”

But whether Rafiki’s success in the international stage will have an impact on how it’s perceived in Kenya, and perhaps influence the ruling on its ban remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, a movie as daring and as loud as Rafiki will not go down without putting up a fight. And the awards like the AMAA win on Sunday offer a glaring proof to the censorship board that perhaps to revolutionize the film industry in Kenya, we must disrupt like Wanuri rather than conform.

More AMAA 2019 winners of the night

The biggest winner of the night at the AMAA was Rwanda’s Mercy of the Jungle which bagged four awards, out of the eight it was nominated for, including the coveted Best Film where it triumphed against Rafiki, Nigeria’s beloved King of Boys (now streaming on Netflix), Redemption (Mozambique), Urgent (Morocco), Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa), The Delivery Boy (Nigeria) and Ellen, The Ellen Parkies Story (S. Africa).

Unlike Rafiki, Kenyan filmmaker Sippy Chadha who had been nominated for Best Director – First Feature for her debut feature Subira wasn’t so lucky with the award going to Ghanaianfilmmaker Blitz Bazawule’s The Burial of Kojo (streaming on Netflix).

Now let’s all just keep our fingers crossed that Subira, which was Kenya’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film will have better luck when the Oscars nominees are announced in 2020.