Jambula Tree (Rafiki)

Applicant: Big World Cinema (South Africa)
Location: Kenya
Duration: 12 months
Amount of the grant: 495 000 €
Project url: website
Click here to download the project factsheet

"Rafiki" (known as “Jambula Tree” in the development phase), is Kenyan author and director Wanuri Kahiu’s first film. It depicts the love story between two young women in modern-day Kenya. All of the project phases, from production to distribution, calls upon the talents and skills of Kenyan people. Therefore, the action aims at having an important economic, pedagogical and cultural impact.


The movie has been shoot in Kenya in July and August 2017 and has been edited in September and October.

The original title "Jambula Tree” came from the short story on which the film is based. This title no longer works for the story as there is no Jambula tree in the film. These trees are found mostly in Uganda and rural east Africa, but not in urban settings like Nairobi, where the film is set. The production company felt it was appropriate to rename the film. 

The film’s title is now "Rafiki", which is Swahili for ‘friend’. This title was chosen as in countries where homosexuality is illegal or stigmatised, two women in love can only ever refer to their partners as their “friend”. Even long-term relationships are referred to like this as it is believed that two women could never really be in love, merely good friends. This title sums up the situation these two young women face and contextualises their relationship within Kenyan society. 

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