Half a Life in Nairobi

The cool evening warmth is suddenly disrupted as a couple of loud bangs rent the air sending birds scampering up in the sky, children screaming for their mothers and people running halter-skelter. When calm sets in, everyone moves towards one direction as word spreads in the neighborhood that a couple of boys have been shot. At the site, there’s a huge crowd as some women wail uncontrollably, lying in a pool of blood next to one another are three young boys. Barely out of their teens, they’ve been shot dead by the Police just a few metres from their homes in Nairobi’s Ziwani Estate.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” So says Julius Caesar in 47 BC after his victorious war against Pharnaces II of Pontus in the city of Zela and it seems many gangsters have sworn and lived with that line especially thugs who moved in from the rural Countryside to Nairobi the capital city of Kenya and in a twist of fate are heading all the way to the Oscars.

A Kenyan crime film by the name of “Nairobi Half Life” has become the country’s first ever film to be considered for an Oscar, the premier movies award. The film which has received huge international acclaim is also being shown in major film festivals across the world. The American Film Market, London’s Film Africa 2012, AFI film fest in Los Angeles are but to mention but a few.

The movie about gang culture features a young aspiring actor from rural upcountry Kenya who has sweet dreams of becoming a success in the big city. During his daily hustle of selling pirated movies he chances upon a mobile theatre and he talks one of the cast members to introduce him to the City. After parting with a small but sweated out fee and to the chagrin of his family, he makes his way to the Capital.

Mwas, as he is known, after immediately walking out of the bus station receives a rousing welcome to the city by a gang of robbers who relieve him of everything. As he wanders around he is mistaken for a hawker and thrown into a Police Cell where he meets and befriends a gangster by the name of Oti.

The thug advices him on the survival ways of the city and once he is released out of prison, he joins up with one of Oti’s thugs.
He meets and falls in love with Oti’s girlfriend who is also a prostitute as he struggles to juggle between acting and gang life. In the gang he slowly rises from being a minnow as he fights for recognition and against the tag that he is from the rural areas. He hits hard and comes up with bigger robbery plans that shoot up the gangs profile as they graduate from muggings and vandalism to carjacking and robbery with violence courtesy of him.

The script is almost real as it depicts exactly what happens in the hood. The carefree thug life, love with prostitutes and how corrupt relationships with policemen turn overnight. As crime heats up and police are pressured to act, they usually arrest gangsters whom they “work with” and execute them one by one to show they are on top of the job.

The movie depicts the struggles and challenges youth face with crime in the neighbourhoods and development from petty crime to robbery with violence. It also portrays to what extent young guys go n the hood in order to achieve their dreams. From Kibera to Mathare, the real life script almost plays the same as the Movie.
The raw and previously unknown cast really did their research and played out their roles almost perfectly bringing a sense of reality to the movie.

“Nairobi Half Life” is being shown in major cinema outlets across Nairobi and film festivals around the World.

Robert Ochola
Robert Ochola, born and raised in Nairobi the Capital City of Kenya. I am an upwardly mobile Journalist with a bias towards the truth and real issues that affect the real people and a willingness and professional capacity to effectively investigate and report problems and successes on the African continent and beyond.

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