Nairobi Half Life: An Award Worthy Watching Experience

By Monica Obaga, 

In Nairobi Half Life, Kenya’s much-celebrated first blockbuster, a young aspiring actor moves to Nairobi to make his dreams come true despite his family’s protests. But it does not take him long to get a taste of the old ‘Nairobbery.’ The film goes on to show his attempts to reconcile his dream with his circumstance, on a journey full of joy, pain, loss and hope.

As a Kenyan living abroad, Nairobi Half Life, with its natural and effortless dialogue, is a one-way express trip to Nairobi. How exciting is it to see different parts of my city, like ‘Bus Station’ and the ‘Phoenix Theatre’, immortalized in film!

Nairobi Half Life was the first Kenyan film to experience such a successful run in local theaters, and it was followed by packed screenings in Durban, Rotterdam, London, New York, and Los Angeles where the film racked up many awards.

It has universal appeal, which stems from its many honest and visceral moments, ranging from laugh-out-loud to painful and lingering. Etched forever in my mind is a moving image of the boys reaching cupped hands through holes in a wall to drink from the pouring rain.

Some criticize the film as a glorification of Africa as the ‘dark continent’, where violence and poverty abound. While the story revolves around gangster life, it takes an insider’s view, with an ownership that lends itself to a rich, layered experience. This is notable because many films set in and around Africa, often have a foreign savior or hero, relegating the context to a blurred background for him to shine. In Nairobi Half Life, the characters are fully formed and as different as you and me. I was really rooting for the songwriting gang member. ‘Songa kando, mpango wa kando…’

While the socioeconomic diversity was commendable, a shortcoming of the film was
female representation, with only one female lead and one supporting who we saw little of.

Overall, Nairobi Half Life is an award worthy movie watching experience. You will
laugh and cry, be thrilled and even think a little.
Watch Nairobi Half Life and other African films on Buni+


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