Rafiki [reminds] us that LGBT narratives in the mainstream are not to be taken for granted. Many international viewers would identify nothing especially subversive in Kenyan writer-director Wanuri Kahiu’s pure-hearted, candy-colored tale of first love blooming between two teenage girls in the rough streets of Nairobi. Yet at home, where homosexuality remains a criminal offense, Rafiki has been slapped with a ban for its positive representation – a state of affairs that makes this lively, brightly performed film impossible not to celebrate […].
In a bustling ghetto on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital […], protagonist Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) is introduced lithely skateboarding through streets fizzing with gossip and activity […]. Kena begins hanging out with Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), a charismatic, well-to-do girl with a veritable firework of pastel-colored braids on her head […]. The girls’ mutual infatuation is intense and almost instant, though expressed only in innocent kisses and close but clothed contact: Their sweet sexual naivete feels fully character-informed rather than censor-compliant.
Both actresses are naturally, beguilingly expressive […]. Christopher Wessel’s sensitive, generously lit lensing [lets] their marvelous faces carry many a key scene.
Guy Lodge, Variety