Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva play lovers on the DL in ‘Rafiki.’

For many in the United States, Rafiki, the second feature by the talented Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, will appear to be straightforward. There are two young black women. They fall in love, but their society is opposed to such unions. A man must love a woman, and a woman must love a man. That is the law of God and nature. Anything else is an abom-ination to the creator and His creation.

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The lovers hide their affair in plain sight. They look just like regular Kenyan women who happen to have a very close relationship. They go out dancing all night, they have soda pop at the kiosk, they dress up together. But, of course, the truth of their union is eventually revealed and their community goes nuts. That's pretty much the story.

But what's interesting about this movie is not so much its story, but the type of black African society that's seen through the lens of a budding lesbian romance. We see a neighborhood in a part of Nairobi that's clearly middle-class. People have mortgages to pay and are engaged in forms of employment with secure incomes: nursing, civil service, the ownership of small businesses.

And so this is not another film about grueling African poverty or the economic consequences of colonialism. In this part of town, the young people mostly speak English, always wear the latest threads, and are connected to other urban areas in Africa and the West by computerized African beats.

One of the lovers, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia), identifies with the guys, who play soccer, drink beer, and talk incessantly about how manly they are. The other lover, Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), hangs out with the ladies, who seem to spend the day testing new dance moves on the streets of the dense neighborhood. Ziki has colorful hair. Kena is a skateboarder.

Their fathers are prominent men in a tight race for a political office. It is clear that Kena's father—who owns a shop and recently left Kena's mother for another, younger woman—is liberal (in the US sense), and that Ziki's father, who is never to be found in a suit that's shabby, is conservative.

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Ziki's class position is higher than Kena's. Ziki's mother is also a bit of snob and speaks English with a proper accent. Everyone else speaks a Nairobi-style of English that's blended with Swahili. Kena's mother is deeply bitter about being dumped. All attend a prosperous church with a pastor who is at once an idiot and handsome.

My point: It's rare to see this side of Africa (middle-class, urban, post-postcolonial) on the screen. Also, Rafiki, which means "friends" in Swahili, has several utterly beautiful sequences, most of which involve the lesbian affair. This director knows how to capture on film the wonderful feeling of falling in love.