Nairobi Half Life

Nairobi Half Life is a 2012 Kenyan drama film directed by David "Tosh" Gitonga. The film was selected as the Kenyan entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but did not make the final shortlist, and is the first time Kenya has submitted a film in this category.[2]

Nairobi Half Life
Nairobi Half Life Poster.png
Film poster
Directed byDavid "Tosh" Gitonga
Written byBilly Kahora
Potash Charles Matathia
Samuel Munene
Serah Mwihaki
Produced bySarika Hemi Lakhani
Tom Tykwer
Ginger Wilson
StarringJoseph Wairimu
CinematographyChristian Almesberger
Edited byMkaiwawi Mwakaba
Music byXaver von Treyer
Release date
  • 19 July 2012 (2012-07-19) (Durban Film Festival)[1]
Running time
96 minutes

At the 33rd Durban International Film Festival, Joseph Wairimu won the award for Best Actor.[3] He also won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Most Promising Actor from the Awards 9th ceremony. It won the most awards at Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards 2014.[4][5]


A young man, Mwas (Joseph Wairimu) still lives with his parents in their rural home in Kenya. He makes a living by selling western action films, he dramatically acts and portrays most of the action figures in his films in order to entice his customers. He is an aspiring actor, and when he comes across a group of actors from Nairobi performing in his town, he asks one of them to help him jump start his acting career. But, in return, he is asked to give ksh1000 (approximately US$10) in order for him to be cast in one of the plays. He can only afford ksh500 and is told to take the other 500 with him to the National Theatre in Nairobi. He is very excited, and, after receiving some money from his mother, he embarks on his journey to Nairobi with a brief stop over in his town to bade his friends goodbye. He meets his cousin (a gang leader) who gives Mwas an expensive radio system and some money to take to Khanji electronic shop in downtown Nairobi.

After making his way to Nairobi, he quickly learns that there is more to Nairobi than just opportunities and glamour. On the first day, Mwas loses everything he has brought to Nairobi after he is assaulted by thugs who leave him stranded, confused, and lonely. He gets arrested and even spends a day in jail. In a twist of events, he meets a Nairobi crook Oti (Olwenya Maina) who becomes a close friend and takes him into his criminal gang. The gang itself specializes in snatch and grab thievery with vehicle parts being their main targets. During this time, Mwas auditions and successfully lands a part in a local play set up by Phoenix Players. He finds himself struggling and juggling the two separate worlds. Mwas finally meets his cousin again who ends up forcing him to steal a car in order to clear his debt. He convinces the gang to move up from stealing parts to stealing cars in order to earn more. Carjacking proved to be a very dangerous activity after the first attempt ends up getting Mwas and a fellow gang member of Oti`s gang being injured in a fight at the meeting place.Later on the carjackings goes successfully, yielding profits that the members share with each other. A misunderstanding breaks out between Oti`s gang and the other one run by a gang leader that ultimately leads to the death of the latter, who died by being impaled by a sharp object when Mwas started confronting with him. This attracts the attention of the police and the two parties are arrested but two corrupt law enforcement officers singles out Oti`s crew and takes them to a secret location which seems abandoned. It was a site of execution to rub off the traces of unsolved Nairobi Crimes. A skirmish erupts leading to the wipeout of the whole crew but Mwas survives.During that time, he falls in love with Oti's onscreen love interest Amina, coming to see her at the lodgings at which she receives customers and even taking her out to the films.


  • Joseph Wairimu as Mwas
  • Olwenya Maina as Oti
  • Nancy Wanjiku Karanja as Amina
  • Mugambi Nthiga as Cedric
  • Paul Ogola as Mose
  • Antony Ndung'u as Waf
  • Johnson Gitau Chege as Kyalo
  • Kamau Ndungu as John Waya
  • Abubakar Mwenda as Dingo
  • Mburu Kimani as Daddy M
  • Mehul Savani as Khanji
  • Maina Joseph as Kimachia


The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy praised the film after watching it at the 2012 AFI Fest: "This dynamic crime drama comes across as fundamentally honest and vividly realistic."[6] KenyaBuzz singled out the show-stealing raw performance by Maina Olwenya as Oti saying: "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."[7]

At the 2014 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards in March 2014,[8] Nairobi Half Life received awards for:

  • Best Cinematographer (Christian Almesberger)
  • Best Lighting Designer (Mohamed Zain)
  • Best Make-Up Artist (Elayne Okaya) and
  • Best Art Director (Barbara Minishi).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Kenya: Nairobi Half Life Nominated for the 85th Oscar Academy Awards". 25 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  2. ^ Vourlias, Christopher (26 September 2012). "Kenya chooses 'Life' for Oscar contest". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  3. ^ "2012 Durban International FIlm Festival Winners". Durban IFF. 6 October 2012. Archived from the original on 6 May 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Nairobi Half-life, The Contract, Flower Girl win big at Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards - Premium Times Nigeria". Premium Times Nigeria.
  5. ^ James Wamathai (8 March 2014). "Nairobi Half Life wins big at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards 2014 (AMVCA)". Hapa Kenya. Archived from the original on 5 January 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Nairobi Half Life: AFI Fest Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Nairobi Half Life: KenyaBuzz Movie Review". Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  8. ^ Irura, Eddie (11 March 2014). "And The AMVCA Winners Are… Excellence in African Film and TV Recognized". Film Kenya. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2016.

External linksEdit