Kenyan ‘Rafiki’ Director Wanuri Kahiu To Helm ‘Covers’ For Universal, Working Title

By Mike Fleming Jr, Patrick Hipes

Wanuri Kahiu
Bret Hartman/TED

EXCLUSIVE: Wanuri Kahiu, the who made history this year when her LGBTQ movie Rafiki became the first movie from Kenya to be selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, is set to direct Covers, a romance set in the Los Angeles music world, for Working Title and Universal.

She was signed after an international search for the job to direct first-time screenwriter Flora Greeson’s screenplay, which Universal has acquired preemptively. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce and Alexandra Loewy will executive produce. Universal’s EVP Production Erik Baiers will oversee.

Kahiu’s Rafiki was banned earlier this year in Kenya in response to its LGBTQ narrative; based on the short story Jambula Tree by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko, the film is a love story between two girls who have to choose between happiness and safety in a country where homosexual activity is against the law. When it was banned in Kenya, they tweeted: “Anyone found in its possession will be in breach of law.”

After Kahiu refused to alter the film and it was banned, the Kenyan High Court granted a temporary lift to allow the movie to have a seven-day Oscar-qualifying run in Kenyan cinemas. The film also was picked to screen at the Toronto Film Festival, London Film Festival and AFI Fest, among others.

Kahiu, also co-founder of Afrobubblegum, a media company that supports, creates and commissions African art, is repped by CAA and Gotham Group. Greeson is repped by UTA.

Working Title’s recent releases with Universal include the Oscar-nominated Darkest Hour via Focus Features, which also is releasing WT’s Mary, Queen of Scots. It also is behind Universal’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.

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