The Kenya Forum | Nairobi Half Life: film detailing hardship up for Oscar - The Kenya Forum

October 23, 2012


‘Nairobi Half Life’, a film detailing the difficulties of life in the city, has attracted Oscar award organiser’s praise.

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Nairobi Half Life: film detailing hardship up for Oscar

Nairobi Half Life: film detailing hardship up for Oscar

If you are a movie fan and have not watched, or much worse not heard of Nairobi Half Life, then perhaps you need to get another hobby. The movie which was premiered in South Africa at the 33rd Durban Film Festival in July, has also become the first Kenyan film to be entered in the prestigious Oscar Academy Awards which will be held on 24th February next year. Nairobi Half Life is among 70 entries gunning for the five nominations in the best foreign language film category.

According to Wambui Kairo, the chairperson of The Kenya Oscars Selection Committee the Nairobi Half Life is a master piece that stands a chance of winning the global awardWe as a committee are privileged to have been involved in the process of reviewing ‘Nairobi Half Life’ and to have found it as a suitable Kenyan submission.  It is clear from this film that The Kenya Film Industry has the capacity to make movies that can compete on a global platform”, she said.


Nairobi Half Life has also scored another first as far as local viewer ship is concerned. Kenyans are known for not appreciating local TV productions and a good number would be unable to name even two local movies they’ve heard of, let alone watched.

Nairobi Half Life has however been on cinema screens in Kenya for the last two months since it opened to the public on Friday 31st August 2012, following its premiere in the country the previous day. Here in Nairobi in the two cinemas where the movie is being screened (Cinemax in Nakumatt Prestige and Planet Theatres in Westgate) are always filled to capacity.


The film’s story revolves around the young, poor but ambitious ‘Mwas’ (Joseph Wairimu) who ekes a living out of selling DVDs. He aspires to be an actor and has a strong conviction that his life would turn for the best if he lands in the big city of Nairobi. He thus sets off from his village in pursuit of a dream despite his family’s reluctance.

Mwas’ misery begins the moment he disembarks the bus in Nairobi; he is robbed of everything he has, including his jacket, and just as he is trying to get on terms with what had just transpired, he is caught up in the middle of a running battle between the city council and hawkers, where he gets mistaken for a hawker. He gets arrested and ends up spending his first day in Nairobi cleaning filthy toilets in a prison cell.

In the cell he meets Oti (Olwenya Maina) who is a thief. Once out of jail, Mwas joins Oti’s gang as that appears to be the only means to survive in the big city.


Unlike most local Kenyan TV productions which tend to borrow storylines from popular international TV shows, Nairobi Half Life has a great original storyline that Kenyans can relate to, something that has definitely contributed to the great viewer ship.

The film portrays the ups and down of the city of Nairobi, commonly known as ‘Nairobbery’ and also portrays the rot not just in the society as large but in the government, and especially the police brutality.

The different shots in the film are also great and the picture quality is equally good. What stood out for this Kenya Forum correspondent were the aerial shots which portrayed the hustle and bustle in the city of Nairobi.


The director of the film, Tosh Gitonga, did a great job on the scene transitions as the audience gets to see one picture when the film begins in the rural set up and a different one all together when the plot moves to the city.

The infrastructure, language and actors depict the rural home but all that changes when story unravels from the city. (A good number of local productions have failed terribly in achieving this simple task).


Piracy has been the greatest challenge the Kenyan film industry faces and sadly Nairobi Half Life pirated DVDs are already being sold in shops in Nairobi. The producers of the film, Ginger Siobhain Wilson and Ginger Ink have not yet started any distribution of the film on DVDs and have only been focusing on the cinema screenings.

Kenya’s film industry however, is picking up tremendously and some players can now boast of earning full time from the industry, compared to yester years. Quality TV productions are also coming up and Kenyans are getting to appreciate them.

Hollywood here we come!


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