"Nairobi Half Life" is directed by David 'Tosh' Gitonga and stars Joseph Wairimu, Olwenya Maina, and Nancy Wanjiku Karanja
Screened at the 2013 Pan African Film Festival, "Nairobi Half Life" centers on the story of Mwas, an aspiring young actor who moves to the big city. Playing on Nairobi's nickname "Nairobbery", Mwas experiences the harsh realities of big city life early. The film then follows him as he hooks up with a group of local thieves who become a band of brothers.
The film depicts their antics, as well as Mwas's efforts to break into acting. He ends up leading a double life as a petty crook and that of an aspiring actor. The two lives become increasingly intertwined as the film's climax features a series of unexpected twists.
The film begins with Mwas selling films around his village and re-enacting scenes from them. We are immediately drawn in by Joseph Wairimu's performance as Mwas, his passion for the dramatic and his comedic interactions with the other characters. His arrival in Nairobi was well shot and performed, as many Kenyans in the audience could relate to the apprehension one feels upon arriving in the city. Once Mwas gains his footing and finds a group to fit in with, the film does a wonderful job of depicting life in the slums of Nairobi. Some of Nairobi's infamous street kids are portrayed as antiheros - humanized and validated.
The lives of Mwas and the other four members of his group revolve around trying to survive in Nairobi. They are aware of the ways in which society views them. Respectable Kenyans look down on them or fear them, big time crooks take advantage of them and the police demand money from them.
"Nairobi Half Life" is an excellent film that brilliantly weaves in powerful messages about poverty, corruption and struggle, all laced with well-acted comedic performances from Wairimu and the supporting cast.