I honestly didn’t consciously chose to see two lesbian films in my Sydney Film Festival viewings, but I’m glad that it worked out that way. Both Rafiki directed by Wanuri Kahiu and The Miseducation of Cameron Post directed by Desiree Akhavan were new stories that I had not experienced before. I will preface this post by stating, the probably obvious fact, that I am a straight white woman and so come at both of these films with that lens.
It was new to me to see a romantic relationship presented on screen between two females so intimately and passionately as the two main girls in Rafiki. The story played out like a classic tale of forbidden love, both girls being daughters of two rival political candidates in a society where homosexuality is heavily frowned upon.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the story was necessarily original in terms of the overarching plot, the context with which it was set and the fact that the lovers where two women instead of male and female gave it enough of a refresh to keep me thoroughly engaged. Plus the slower pace gave the audience more time to really connect with both Kena & Ziki and therefore want to follow them on their journey.
The stunning cinematography made it a feast for the eyes and the films killer soundtrack I haven’t stopped listening to since. All around Rafiki made me feel good, and I left wanting to race home to hug my partner and never let him go. Even though homophobia was definitely present in the film the overall message was of love and hope.
The film was sent to Cannes but after being banned in Kenya due to its pro-homosexuality message the filmmakers were not able to attend the festival. Director Wanuri Kahiu was extremely disappointed by the ban and said, “We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied” . Unfortunately Under British colonial-era laws homosexuality still remains illegal in Kenya. This film I think is important in changing the definition of love that is presented to us on screen. I would encourage people to see this film just to get a new take on what is typically a heterosexual love story.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was a very different film. I don’t know whether I necessarily enjoyed it to be perfectly honest. There were elements that I appreciated such as the great camera work and some pretty great performances from the cast. I think it was mainly the tone of the film, which pitched itself as a comedy, yet ultimately left me feeling like they were trying to hard.
The story follows Cameron, a 16 year old girl who is caught cheating on her boyfriend with another girl, a relationship that has been developing for some time in the background. Afterward she is sent to a Christian behavioural correction camp where she will be cured of her SSA (same sex attraction). What follows is a series of therapy sessions with the hardcore leader of the camp, who says some pretty despicable things for a 21st century LGBTQI accepting audience to hear. But she eventually makes friends with two other SSA diseased peers at the camp and soon learns not to take it all that seriously.
Where the story struggles is that it both wants to be taken seriously but then presents everything like a joke. There are instances of abuse both physical and mental, we see Cameron struggle with what may or may not be wrong wth her and then its all swiftly followed by hammed up scenes like the intervention from Cameron’s roommate when she is caught trying to steal a tape.
In a film about struggling with identity the film sure follows suit. I understand Drama’s having elements of comedy, after all life is light and shade, but just when we are starting to get into the true grit of the story it backs out and throws a light hearted joke in.
But I don’t one bit regret seeing this film because it was different. It took a subject that I haven’t had much to do with and made me think about it. So I am glad for that. I do watch a lot of movies that follow the same kind of plot lines with the same kind of characters and this was, for all intents and purposes, different.
In a world where women are struggling so hard to make a change to the way the industry works, being able to see two films that dramatically shifted the media landscape that I have been exposed to was refreshing, inspiring and left me feeling just like I did at the end of Rafiki, hopeful.
I honestly can’t wait til next year.