BFI London Film Festival: 3 African Films Picks: “Rafiki”, “Joy” and “In Fabric”

Rafiki (Main image still: Rafiki courtesy of BFI LFF)

Saturday 13 October 2018 18:15 – BFI Southbank, NFT1

Sunday 14 October 2018 15:00 – BFI Southbank, NFT2

Dir Wanuri Kahiu
Prod Steven Markovitz
Scr Wanuri Kahiu, Jenna Bass
With Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Jimmi Gathu
Kenya-South Africa-France-Lebanon-Norway-Netherlands-Germany-USA
2018. 82min

Street-smart tomboy Kena and rainbow-haired free spirit Ziki both dream of a life beyond the stifling confines of their conservative Nairobi neighbourhood. From the moment the two young women meet, the connection is clear and soon their budding friendship blossoms into something more serious. Torn between the romantic desire to follow their hearts and the pragmatic need to follow their heads, the star-crossed lovers find themselves forced to make an impossible choice between happiness and safety. There is no question that Rafiki is a timely and necessary film. Even before its premiere at Cannes this year, a national ban was enforced for its supposed “intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya, contrary to the law”. Such intolerance only serves as a testament to the unabashed courage director Wanuri Kahiu demonstrates in telling queer stories in a country where gay sex is still a punishable offence. But while her film has inherently political implications, it also signals a new African cinema that is youthful, stylish and thrillingly engaged with pop culture. Sparkling with effervescent colour and crackling with palpable chemistry between the two leads, this trailblazing film is a vital burst of energy, urgency and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

In Fabric

Thursday 18 October 2018 20:30 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7

Thursday 18 October 2018 21:00 -Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5

Friday 19 October 2018 12:00 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7

Friday 19 October 2018 15:30 – Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1

Dir-Scr Peter Strickland
Prod Andrew Starke
With Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill
UK. 2018. 118min
Bank clerk Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) has decided it’s time to start dating again. It’s been a while and it will get her out of the house, where her son is busy with his sadomasochistic girlfriend (Gwendoline Christie). Calling a lonely-hearts ad in a newspaper, she soon agrees on a rendezvous with the promising-sounding Adonis. Time to get herself something nice to wear. A trip to Dentley & Soper’s Trusted Department Store soon becomes a shopping experience like no other. There’s something not quite right about the staff here, from the disconcerting sales talk to their unsavoury night-time trysts. And as for those dresses… In Fabric is as wildly, perversely imaginative and visually thrilling as we have come to expect from director Peter Strickland. He follows The Duke of Burgundy by venturing even further to the outer reaches of the erotic macabre, finding pleasures in everything from shop mannequins to the sound of someone listing washing-machine parts. A potent mix of design and spooky intrigue, the film is bolstered with lashings of oddball humour – Steve Oram and Julian Barratt’s double act is a particular treat – and a hot synth score from Cavern of Anti-Matter. Essential viewing for fashion addicts and those who dig their ghost stories kinky.

Joy

Tuesday 16 October 2018 20:50 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7

Tuesday 16 October 2018 21:15 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5

Wednesday 17 October 2018 12:30 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7

Wednesday 17 October 2018 12:45 – Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5

Dir-Scr Sudabeh Mortezai
Prod Oliver Neumann
With Joy Alphonsus, Mariam Precious
Austria. 2018. 99min

Nigerian Joy earns money through sex work, with most of her earnings going to her ‘Madame’. She lives in a dorm with other women who are on similar ‘contracts’; none are allowed passports until they pay the debt of their illegal passage to Austria. The women’s families in Nigeria live under constant threat of bad juju if the women do not behave – a threat each of them takes extremely seriously. Despite having hired another woman to care for her own child, Joy has almost paid off her freedom when she is asked to supervise Precious, a much younger new recruit who is causing the Madame problems. Director Mortezai brings a meticulous eye to this urgent situation hidden in plain sight. She immerses us in these women’s everyday lives, avoiding sentimentalisation her subjects, the naturalistic approach offering a devastating portrait of human resilience in the most brutal of environments. Playing her namesake – as do all the women here – ‘Joy’ Alphonsus imbues every scene with her indomitable strength, juggling the near-impossible tensions of a system that pits her own responsibility to family against her humanity. . The London Film Festival Runs 10- 21st October 2018.

For full programme and bookings go to:  https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp

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