Nairobi Half Life – Movie Review

Director: David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga

Writers: Serah Mwihaki, Charles “Potash” Matathia, Samuel Munene   

Stars: Joseph Wairimu, Olwenya Maina, Nancy Wanjiku Karanja, Mugambi Nthiga


Nairobi Half Life tells the story of a young man, Mwas (Joseph Wairimu) who aspires to be a big film star but he lives in an area where the opportunities are scarce. When he is promised a chance of getting an audition in the capital city, Nairobi; he lives his village home and sets out on a journey to fulfill his dream. However, nothing can truly prepare Mwas for the life in the big city.

Mwas’ arrival in the bustling city is far from the red carpets and shine of Hollywood lights, his welcoming party  gives him an early sign of what to expect but Mwas Is not deterred by the unfriendly welcome, in fact throughout the film, his optimism and determination to reach his goals is one of the high points of the film. Joseph Wairimu carries the film throughout with his outstanding performance as the lead character.

Nairobi Half Life -Joseph Wairimu

The film takes us to the bustling underground city of Nairobi where survival is your only option, crime is rampant and the cops turn a blind eye to the destructive system for their own benefits. Oti (Olwenya Maina) as the supporting character is a key element, he shows Mwas how to live on a day to day basis by “being smart” as he puts it.

Although the film is written by three people, there is a common understanding of the story and the message it intends to deliver amongst the writers as the film accurately depicts the harsh reality of leaving in such conditions.  Add to it, the excellent cinematography by Christian Almesberger is a major plus.

Nairobi Half Life 2 - still

 I can’t stress how much I enjoyed this film, it’s the perfect example of how local filmmakers have the ability to tell African stories and deliver on this front. My only nitpick with the movie is how the relationship between two characters unfolds, it was dispensable.

After seeing this it’s easy to see why Nairobi Half-life received a wide array of awards at the 2014 Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards but most notably, it was nominated for the “Best Foreign Language Film” category at the Oscars (2012). I highly recommend you see this, without a shadow of a doubt it is one of the best films from the local film industry and a source of inspiration for aspiring filmmakers in Kenya.

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