Thursday, May 4, 2023

"Nairobi Half Life" deserves a longer life

 "Nairobi Half Life" (2012) was intended to be a time filler with my interest piqued only by its Kenyan origin.  African films don't get a lot of attention in North America, but they are gaining the expertise needed as well as the stories that will interest a wider world.

Mwas lived in a rural area of Kenya selling western action films.  He thought he could be an actor.  Naive, but charming.  When arrived in the big city of Nairobi he was immediately roughed up and robbed of all his things (except his clothes he was wearing).  In a desperate situation he was soon picked up by the police and thrown in jail.  There he befriends Oti who steers him to a gang.  He soon gets involved in stealing car parts and a few times uses his elocutionary skills to help talk himself out of delicate situations.  

He tries to get a part in a play, but at first not knowing the procedure makes little progress.  Finally he does get a role and takes part in rehearsals.  The climax of the story is when the play is scheduled to open he cannot be found.  His dual life has complications that explain this.  Another complication is that he has become friendly with a prostitute attached to the gang.  She dreamed of going back to school and becoming a beautician while he of course wanted to be an actor. Although they were attracted to one another her profession was a barrier.

There is lots of criminal and police action that provides tension to keep the story interesting.  The ending is ambiguous looking like it needed a sequel, but it turns out there wasn't enough financing.

Kenya is assembling the people to support a vibrant film industry.  This is a good example of what they can offer.   Here are some cast and crew.  Germany helped provide financing and expertise.

Directed by David 'Tosh' Gitonga .  He has 12 film credits and has won international awards

Writing crew of Potash Charles Matathia, Samuel Munene and Serah Mwihaki won an international award for their script.  Samuel Munene did some camera work for an American film, "Chimpanzee" (2011) filmed in Uganda.

Three producers Sarika Hemi Lakhani, Tom Tykwer and Ginger Wilson.  

Sarika Hemi Lakhani has a German mother and a Kenyan/Indian father and was educated in Germany.  She had been involved with German and English films until Tom Tykwer asked to get involved with "Soul Boy" (2010) that was set in Kenya.  From there she has been a producer of Kenyan films.

Tom Tykwer , born in Germany worked as a young man as a film projectionist and worked up to head of programing at the Moviemento Theater.  He was encouraged to try film making and did a number of shorts before tackling features.  He directed, wrote and composed for different films.  "Run Lola Run" (1998) was an international success.  Other films include "Cloud Atlas" (2012 and "A Hologram for The King" (2016).  Also composes music for some of his films.  For "Inglourious Basterds" (2009) he translated some dialogue into German.

Ginger Wilson is based in Nairobi and had been involved with films in Africa.  Most notable might be "Clash of the Titans" (2010) that was partially filmed in Ethiopia.  She was a service producer for 20 episodes of "Sense8" (2015-2017).  She is the owner of Ginger Ink which services films all over Africa.

Xaver von Tryer provided the music.  He has 19 film credits mostly for the German market.

Cinematography was handled by Christian Almesberger with over 60 film credits.  including "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (2014), "Clouds of Sils Maria" (2014), "A Hologram for trhe King" (2018) and 17 episodes of "Sense8" (2015-2017).

Editing was done by Mkaiwawi Mwakaba with 7 film credits.

Joseph Wairimu played Mwas winning some awards for the role.  He was excellent playing a naive young man catching on while pursuing his dream.  He went onto to 8 more film credits including 2 episodes of "Sense8" a multi national film.

Olwenya Maina played Oti, a tough guy who nurtured Mwas into criminal activities.  He has 7 film credits.

Shix Kapenga played Anima the prostitute who liked Mwas.  She has 7 film credits.

Paul Ogola played one of the Gangsters.  He has 13 film credits which includes 7 episodes of "Sacred Games" (2019.)

Ainea Ojiambo played a crooked police officer.  He started acting on stage and from there was given an opportunity for a small role in big American British production of "The Constant Gardener" (2004).  He has 16 film credits including "The First Grader" (2010).  He has been a consultant for guns in films and in 2021 was able to take a course in Counter Terrorism at the European Security Academy Company.

Available on Netflix.  A lot of the dialogue is in English, but subtitles are available for Swahili and Kikuyu dialogues.  Watch and you will appreciate Africa has worthy films to offer the world.

I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

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