David "Tosh" Gitonga makes his big screen debut as a director with this Oscar-worthy dramatic action flick about a young man who leaves his home in central province (I assume because there was quite a bit of Kikuyu speaking in the "goodbye" scenes) to travel to the big city in search of "a life".
But the life Mwas gets is far away from the one he dreamed of. He is plunged into a life of crime and drama which despite the theatrics is a very realistic portrayal of Nairobi’s dark side.
Nairobi Half Life is a joint collaboration between a team of Kenyan writers, including a veteran name like Serah Mwihaki as the script writer, a full Kenyan cast, and was fully shot in Nairobi with the assistance of Ginger Ink Films as a promotion of their One Fine Day film workshop.
Joseph Wairimu as Mwas has already won Best Actor for the role at the Durban International Film Festival. His naivety in the movie is something special to behold. Throughout the movie, the audience (which knows better by experience or warning) is brought to a feeling of almost crying out, "Dude! Come on! Seriously! You can’t be THAT stupid!" There are several scenes in which he earned his victory in Durban including a vicious jail cell scene involving A LOT human waste and gravity.
But in many ways the character who stole the show by BECOMING his persona is Olwenya Maina as Oti. This character is more ghetto than listening to old NWA albums. He speaks with a criminal confidence and walks like he owns the city despite being a common criminal.
The movie also reunites Maina with Nancy Wanjiku Karanja as a couple. Last time we saw them in a "close" situation, he was raping her in MTV’s Shuga. This time around the sex is consensual but the woman is much less than morally upstanding. But the movie does a fantastic job of portraying that even a harlot such as Amina (Karanja) is a person with dreams of "a life". Other notable characters are cameos by Eddy Kimani and Nini Wacera as victims.
Nairobi has never looked more like a cesspool of criminal activity and filth as it does in this movie. The city is full of urban realities which the movie displays expertly through the use of amazing camera angles. For example, never chase a thief into a dark alley because that is HIS turf.
In addition, if you have ever been in jail, please ask the police what’s the story with taking one shoe? But most importantly, there is plenty of danger to be avoided by those wise enough to do so.
We often forget just how dangerous Nairobi is and go about our lives negligently. But in reality, car-jackings, muggings and ruthless police executions happen all the time (allegedly). The movie IS rather violent though, so "no no" for the kiddies.
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