The Kenyan film industry commonly known as RiverWood, is not as vibrant as that of Nigeria. Despite this, great films have been produced and amazing actors and actresses like Lupita Nyongo started her career acting on local productions such as Shuga.
One of the best thrillers of all time must be ‘Nairobi Half Life’ written and directed by Tosh Gitonga. This was his first film, after amassing wealth of experience on M-Net series Changes. The moment you start watching the movie, you already have an expectation of what to likely unfold. But several episodes down the line you are proven wrong. The happily ever after doesn’t come soon but rather Mwas (Joseph Wairimu), the main character is subjected to struggle and failure throughout.
The film depicts how ordinary Kenyan youth are faced with extraordinary everyday struggles in order to make it in life. The plots revolves around the life of Mwas (Joseph Wairimu), a movie merchant who resides in country side but has aspirations of making it in the city as an actor.
On his first day in Nairobi, he’s robbed of all his belongings and due to a misunderstanding he also finds himself in jail. In the jail he meets Oti (Olwenya Maina), a petty Nairobi thug and ‘friendship’ is struck. Oti’s gang draws Mwas into life of crime. The underworld is riddled with double crossers, and Mwas is dragged into it.
However, he doesn’t abandon his dream of acting and manages to get himself an acting role in a play. With time he finds himself living a double-life, an actor by day and a criminal by night. As a result Mwas finds himself in collision with local police and gang lords. Eventually, Mwas had to give up one life over the other. This was after he narrowly escapes death from the hands of police.
Although the film portrays Kenya in a negative way, the lesson is learnt in the end where Mwas ends with a quote “There is only one life that we can live. One life that is hopefully truthful and right. In that we live in being aware of what is around us. So my question is; are we chosen in this our life or are we taking it for granted? Are we decided to be the way we are or have we looked away from everything that is around us in order to protect the island that we live on? It is a choice; to look or to look away.”
The story line and Mwas acting prowess are the gems of this film. In fact, Mwas went ahead to win an award at the Durban International Film Festival. Unlike other local, Nairobi Half Life steals your attention from the first episode and takes you along on a thrilling journey to the end.
However, the plot could have been better with a few editing. For instance, some scenes were weighed down by excessive and unnecessary dialogue. Overall it was a very entertaining production. I recommend you watch it now!