Nairobi Half Life starts with Mwas (Joseph Wairimu) selling films around his home back in the village. Joseph Wairimu’s performance as Mwas quickly captures our attention as his comic character takes shape. 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 anti-heroes – humanised and validated.
The film provides a sharp portrait of many different strata of Nairobi’s neighbourhoods and lifestyles, which helps freshen the fundamentally Dickensian nature of the story. Technical quality is tops, with Gitonga and cinematographer Christian Almesberger opting for elegant and composed images rather than a rough, hand-held style; the editing is similarly coherent. Xaver von Treyer’s score provides a strong pulse, and the cast is strongly appealing no matter how sketchy their characters might be.
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.
Our Final Thoughts
At the 33rd Durban International Film Festival, Joseph Wairimu won the award for Best Actor. That is why we award it a 91% rating.