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Nairobi Half Life (2012)

 -  Drama  -  8 December 2012 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 494 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 10 critic

A young, aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya dreams of becoming a success in the big city. In pursuit of this and to the chagrin of his brother and parents, he makes his way to Nairobi:the city of opportunity.


(writing supervisor), (script writer), 2 more credits »
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Title: Nairobi Half Life (2012)

Nairobi Half Life (2012) on IMDb 7.6/10

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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Joseph Wairimu ...
Olwenya Maina ...
Nancy Wanjiku Karanja ...
Mugambi Nthiga ...
Paul Ogola ...
Antony Ndung'u ...
Johnson Gitau Chege ...
Kamau Ndungu ...
John Waya
Abubakar Mwenda ...
Mburu Kimani ...
Daddy M
Mehul Savani ...
Maina Joseph ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nyokabi Gethaiga ...
Stella Wangeci Nyawira ...
Phoenix theatre assistant
Benta Ochieng ...
Kidnapped woman


A young, aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya dreams of becoming a success in the big city. In pursuit of this and to the chagrin of his brother and parents, he makes his way to Nairobi:the city of opportunity.

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Official Sites:




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Release Date:

8 December 2012 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


€500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The official submission of Kenya to the Best Foreign Language Film of the 85th Academy Awards 2013. See more »

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User Reviews

Starting actor moves to capital city, looking for a role. Stumbles on shady side job, and shows remarkable talents in both. Entertaining and promising debut from Kenya
1 May 2013 | by (Amersfoort, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I saw this film at the Rotterdam film festival 2013 (IFFR), where it was part of the Bright Future section. Main character Mwas grows up in a small village. He dreams of becoming in actor in the capital city Nairobi, also known as Nairobbery. The latter side of the large city takes him off guard immediately upon arrival. Pennyless he winds up in jail, albeit not guilty of any crime. He needs some time to adjust himself to the environment, thereby attracting the attention of a fellow prisoner when showing an original twist on an assignment to clean the toilets.

After his innocence is established and he is released, he remembers the promise of that fellow prisoner to help him find a job. His disarming and fearless attitude makes him a perfect fit for a gang that "obtains" parts from parked cars. He shows extraordinary talents in misleading policemen, and his natural insight in body language makes him very useful in price negotiations when re-selling the stolen goods.

While still on the lookout for auditions where they need an actor like him, we see a duo-story enfold. Both story lines develop steadily in alternating scenes. As a bonus we get an inside view in Nairobi, and how people live there in the big city. We can only assume that this view is realistic. But even if we are mislead in this, it still is beautifully shot and acted throughout.

On one of his first auditions he shows remarkable knowledge how criminals operate, and a natural way of playing the role of a criminal. Of course, we viewers know how he obtained inside information about the underworld. Anyway, it serves him well and he immediately gets the role. He has some problems in combining the two ways of life, but on average he copes very well under the circumstances.

A cynic like me may point out that some events are a bit too coincidental. He seems to have an above average amount of luck working in his advantage. On the other hand, when otherwise we would have had no story, hence no scenario to base this film on. Yet I remain skeptical, when for instance he is the only one who gets unharmed out of a gang clash. And a shootout near the end of the film considerably delays him, but he is still able to reach just-in-time the premiere of the stage play he has a role in. A bit unlikely, maybe, but providing for extra emphasis on his impressive monologue in the finale of the play.

All in all, 96 minutes well spent. That this film got a justified place in the Bright Future section of the festival, is an unmistakable hint that we long to see more of these film makers and lead actor in the future to come. The festival visitors gave this film a good score of 4.45 (out of 5), thus ranking it a deserved 10th place (out of 178) for the audience award.

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