‘Nairobi Half Life’ Review: “It’s A Choice To Look or To Look Away…”

Everywhere you look, everyone is saying that Nairobi Half Life is brilliant.
Secretly, I wanted to be the first to pop that bubble.

While I am a huge fan of the arts I have always struggled to fully embrace and love our own. We are not lacking in artists; but they can’t afford to take anymore risks than they already have. We as the audience tend not to consume local art. We shun our own musicians, yet if anyone with a different passport grabs a microphone, tickets will sell out. Same can be said of pretty much every other industry that relies on art; from advertising to cinema. No creative wants to share his creation with an audience that won’t appreciate it or invest in it. Few dare to make that honest gamble, to risk being artistically inventive, invest all time and money into doing something that may go over people’s heads. And even if it doesn’t go over their heads, will they appreciate your labor of love? And even if they like it, will they pay for it?

Who really dares to be a dreamer in Nairobi in 2012? Most of our local artists wouldn’t risk it.

That cannot be said of the cast and crew of Nairobi Half Life.

The story of an aspiring actor who leaves the village with dreams to make it big in Nairobi but ends up in the wrong crowd, may seem like your typical synopsis. Let me preemptively guarantee you that the story is anything but typical. The plot not only has a few unexpected twists, but it gets alarmingly profound, involving and emotionally captivating. The tension is tangible and realistic and it only gets weightier as the story progresses. Especially for Nairobi residents, it is an immensely immersive experience: these are characters you know, locations you can relate to and stories you’ve heard, seen or lived taken to an exponential degree.

Hands down, the best thing about the movie is the actors’ performances. And that’s saying a lot. The production was spectacular. The direction of Mr. Tosh Gitonga is indubitable. The script is one of the best I’ve watched in the past few years. Not in Kenya or Africa, but in the world. The soundtrack and sound was superb and the choice of locations made me want to be a photographer again. But the actors and their performances were so genuinely gripping that you never doubt them for one second. You begin to believe in Mwas dream and fear the hoodlums of Nairobi long enough to connect with them and start fearing police instead. If any of you read this, I doff my hat to you all.

Honorable mention must be made to Joseph Wairimu’s portrayal of Mwas. Even after the movie ends, you never stop rooting for the protagonist. His story; that of having a dream, believing, struggling and living through it in the harshest most unforgiving of cities at a time no one would consider it logical, let alone wise; is something we can all relate to in a very substantial way.

But the one thing that he does which most of us can’t is he makes that leap, he bets it all on his vision and he knows it’s worth it. He is a believer and a dreamer in a city that doesn’t even condone those who sleep.

Much like the folks behind this movie. They dared to do what many can’t justify doing in this day and age. The bar for quality Kenyan cinema has been raised into international stratospheres and will not soon be reached.

I wanted to be the first not to love the movie, but I strongly suspect I am one of it’s biggest fans. Kudos all around.

Nairobi Half Life will be showing at Westgate everyday at 3:20 and 7pm. It only costs 350/= (weekdays), and 450/= on weekends and is worth every penny twice over.

Follow us on Twitter and like our page on Facebook for a chance to win tickets throughout the week.

UPDATE:#NairobiHalfLife is now showing at The Junction. 10.50AM, 1.20PM, 3.50PM, 6.20PM, 8.45PM every day. Ksh.350 Mon – Thurs, Kshs.450 Weekends. (via @ItsMugambi)

17 thoughts on “‘Nairobi Half Life’ Review: “It’s A Choice To Look or To Look Away…”

  1. I saw the preview of the movie in our local flickhouse down by the Port City (yea that city where a character believed to support Al Kebab was shot and his lackeys ended up sacking the city last week, that city where Kenya’s tourism industry draws its most receipts…you get the idea? Good), and what originally turned me off from the movie was the fact that it was financed by funding from donor organisations who always fund work of arts that come out as preachy, parochial and dogmatic. So you can imagine my original negative outlook of the movie. I also wondered aloud as to why our art industry still has to seek funding from donor agency. They cannot get commercial funding to allow the movie compete at the international level? But going by your review, seem the movie must have gripped you. I guess a peek at it at the flick house wouldn’t hurt.

  2. Pingback: When you watch a really good movie, you just want to share it with the world « Thoughts, Things and (Thick) Hair

  3. Watched it … excellent movie but too dark in most scenes. I am not sure if it was the theatre (CC at Junction) or the movie itself but it distracted from an otherwise wonderful movie

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