Arts & Culture

Rafiki – Africa’s First Film to Screen at the Gibara Festival

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Gibara International Film Festival starts July 7

Director of the Havana Glasgow Film Festival Eirene Houston has been coming to the Gibara International Film Festival for years. She’s excited about Rafiki, by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu. It will be the first African film to be screened in Gibara. “It’s a bit of a coup. Really chuffed about that. It’s in competition in the feature length fiction category,” she said.

Rafiki has been shown previously to very receptive audiences at the Africa in Motion Festival as well as the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

Rafiki was selected for the Cannes 2018 festival for the category, Un Certain Regard. It is the love story of the blossoming romance between two young Kenyan women. The film was celebrated and admired for tackling a subject that remains controversial and taboo in many African societies, but it was also condemned for the same reasons.

The film had a standing ovation at Cannes and has been screened at numerous other festivals around the world. This worldwide interest primarily underscores two main points – that there is an urgent need to tell more stories about female sexuality that overcome patriarchal, hetero-normative and narrow-minded cultural views, and that audiences, in Africa and elsewhere, want to see these representations.


Rafiki broke taboos on several levels, not only in its courageous, albeit non-explicit, display of female sexuality, but also in its representation of queer female sexuality in particular. It is an important film and one that should be shown to audiences across the globe.

The Havana-Glasgow Film Festival and Africa in Motion festival are co-hosts of Rafiki. The two film festival organizations joined forces to bring the movie to Cuba.

Gibará is a quiet, sleepy little town on the eastern coast of Cuba. Nobody would have heard of the place if not for the fact that one of Cuba’s greatest film directors, Humberto Solás, chose the location to film his cinematic masterpiece, Lucia. One of the things that most attracted Solás to this place was the light that illuminates the town, softening the vision of everything on celluloid.

It was these factors that eventually led Solás to establish a film festival in this little Cuban coastal town that nobody had heard about.

“Gibará is special because of the amazing setting and sense of community,” said Houston. “It’s also the only film festival that gives its main prize to a film in progress, a prize to help finish a film. This is unique and special. It’s not about the hype but the reality of how hard it is to get a film made. I love that.”

The Gibara Film Festival, was once known as the Cine Pobre Film Festival, is an alternative festival which aims to be the venue of “the voices of all,” an audiovisual meeting point, regardless of the discriminatory labels of “independent film,” and “industry,” of “margin” and “center,” of “third or ” first world.”

Jorge Perugorría, one of Cuba’s greatest actors, has been the Festival’s president for many years.

This year’s international cinema lineup includes movies from Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Germany, Haiti, Holland, Iran, Mexico, Spain, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland,Venezuela, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

The Gibara Film Festival is sponsored by ICAIC, the Holguin Provincial Government, the Gibara Municipal Government, Patrimonial Cultural, the Spanish and Norwegian Embassies in Havana, Iberostar, Goethe Institute, Havana Cultura, Heineken, Galeria Taller Gorria, Cubaness, Estudio 500, Havana Club, Evelop Online Tours, BFC, RTV Service, RTV Comercial, Club Ron, Cubaness, Four Wives, La Guarida restaurante, Ciego Montero, GrandSlam Ltd and many others.

This year’s Gibara International Festival, will begin on July 7 and last until July 13. Festival visitors can catch Rafiki on Thursday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. on the screen at Cine Jiba.

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