It has been 52 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, and only 6 years since gay marriage became legal in the UK.
Although progress comes in waves and there is still much to be done, the UK has taken great strides towards becoming a more welcoming, more equal society that celebrates love in all its forms.
This LGBT+ history month, the Showroom Cinema are taking some time to reflect on what love looks like internationally, with three films that explore the universal rites of passage - coming of age and falling in love for the first time - from a global perspective.
The first film in the season, Rafiki, first hit the headlines in May 2018, when it became the first Kenyan film in history to be accepted into the prestigious Cannes film festival.
The film centres around a fizzy romance between two girls on the brink of adulthood. It’s refreshingly innocent - tackling the exploration of sexuality without ever sexualising its two leads.
At its Cannes premiere the film received a standing ovation, and there was a palpable feeling in the room that this was something genuinely different.
It’s the kind of film that ignites sparks of hope in all that get the chance to see it.
At the front of the room stood three African women, laughing and smiling through stifled tears.
At a festival so frequently chastised for its lack of diversity their very presence was cause for celebration.
Whilst this took place Rafiki was banned in its home country by the Kenyan Film Classification Board, who cited the film’s ‘clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law’. But in September 2018, the Kenyan High Court lifted the ban on Rafiki after director Wanuri Kahiu filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s ruling.
The court’s decision allowed for a seven-day theatrical release of the film – the requirements for submission to the Oscars.
If you’ve been paying attention to awards season, you’ll notice that Rafiki didn’t get a nomination. It was, however, Kenya’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film.
For a country where homosexuality is a crime punishable by 14 years in prison, that fact alone is truly revolutionary.
Rafiki will be released in the UK in April 2019, but you can watch a preview of the film on Monday 11th February at 6pm as part of the Showroom Cinema’s LGBT+ History Month Season Awakenings:
First Love in LGBTQ+ Cinema. For more details, and to book tickets, please visit: https://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/lgbtq-history-month